Mxican novelist Yuri Herrera, Brazilian poet Angélica Freitas and their translators are the winners of the 2016 Best Translated Book Awards, it was announced Wednesday at a ceremony in New York City.
Herrera and translator Lisa Dillman took home the fiction award for “Signs Preceding the End of the World,” about a young woman who travels from Mexico to the United States in search of her missing brother.
The novel, pubilshed in the U.S by small press And Other Stories, beat out several high-profile books shortlisted for the prize, including Elena Ferrante’s “The Story of the Lost Child,” Clarice Lispector’s “The Complete Stories” and Valeria Luiselli’s “The Story of My Teeth.”
The poetry prize went to Freitas and Los Angeles-based translator Hilary Kaplan for the collection “Rilke Shake.” Originally released in Brazil in 2007, the English-language version is published by L.A. press Phoneme Media.
Chad Post, the founder of the awards, praised Herrera’s novel as “masterfully written, and wonderfully translated,” and said Freitas’ collection won “for its playfulness, and for its great shifts from irreverence to heartbreak and back again.”
Each writer and translator will receive $5,000; the cash awards are underwritten by the Amazon Literary Partnership program.
The Best Translated Book Awards were founded in 2007 by Post, and are sponsored by the literary site Three Percent, which is affiliated with the University of Rochester’s Open Letter Books press.
“This award is really competitive,” Post said. “There were 500 eligible fiction works this year, and at least six that could’ve won, and might have in a different year.”
Post said he started the awards to bring attention to translated literature, which is frequently overlooked by American audiences.
“The fact that Elena Ferrante and Karl Ove Knausgaard — two very different writers — are both bestsellers, proves to me that people are aware that great literature can be written in languages other than English,” he said. “It’s fun and helps take translated literature out of the ‘ivory tower’ and helps combat the idea that reading books from abroad is like eating your vegetables.”
Previous winners of the awards include Tove Jansson’s “The True Deceiver,” Can Xue’s “The Last Lover” and Dorothea Dieckmann’s “Guantanamo.”
This year’s winners celebrated their victories on Twitter. Freitas tweeted, “We won!!!” in Portuguese on her account, while Herrera posted in Spanish, “The great [Lisa Dillman] has won us the Best Translated Book Award for her translation of Signs Preceding the End of the World.”