March 29, 2016—Clarice Lispector, Elena Ferrante, Valeria Luiselli, and Abdourahman Waberi are a few of the authors included in this year’s remarkably diverse Best Translated Book Award longlist for fiction and poetry.
Announced this morning on the Three Percent website, these longlists represent the results of months of reading by fourteen judges tasked with deciding which were the “best” works of fiction and poetry in translation to be published in 2015. Over 560 eligible titles were published last year, written by authors from more than eighty countries and published by 160 different publishers.
This diversity is reflected in this year’s longlists, which include books written in nineteen different languages—from Arabic to Urdu—from authors born in twenty-three different countries, including Angola, Afghanistan, and Indonesia, among others.
“Not only has it been a pleasure to read such a strong field of poetry submissions this year—it’s also been incredible to see such diversity in countries and languages being published by presses of all sizes,” said poetry judge Katrine Øgaard Jensen. “I’m thrilled that our poetry longlist actually manages to capture this diversity to a certain extent with titles from China, Djibouti, Brazil, Argentina, Afghanistan, France, Mexico, India, and Russia—China being the only country that’s represented twice.”
As in years past, there is a healthy mix of established authors—like the aforementioned Ferrante and Lispector—with those who made their English-language debut in 2015, such as Eka Kurniawan and Yuri Herrera. Twenty-six presses have books on this year’s lists, with New Directions having the most titles (four), followed by Graywolf and Open Letter (three each).
“Even as someone who regularly tries his best to read diversely and wide in world literature, being a jury member this year exposed me to presses I’ve never heard of and regions I’ve never read from before,” said fiction judge Kevin Elliott. “Though we all still have work ahead of us in promoting and alerting the public to the unique voices being translated and published in English, there are more and more small publishers and tireless translators working endlessly to bring all that world literature has to offer to a larger audience. Regardless of who wins from this list, the submitted works this year prove that the art and craft of letters and translation is no longer simply an academic endeavor, but a necessary and (thankfully) increasingly accessible reality in the world of books.”
As in recent years, the Best Translated Book Awards are underwritten by Amazon.com’s giving programs, which allow both winning authors and winning translators to receive $5,000 cash prizes.
The finalists for both the fiction and poetry awards will be announced on The Millions on Tuesday, April 19th, and the winners will be announced on Wednesday, May 4th at 7 p.m., simultaneously on The Millions and at a live event at The Folly in New York City. There will also be a celebration during BookExpo America at 5 p.m. on May 11th at 57th St. Books in Chicago.
Past winners of the fiction award include: The Last Lover by Can Xue, translated from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen; Seiobo There Below and Satantango, both by László Krasznahorkai, and translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet and George Szirtes respectively; Stone Upon Stone by Wiesław Myśliwski, translated from the Polish by Bill Johnston; and, The True Deceiver& by Tove Jansson, translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal.
In terms of the poetry award, past winners include: Diorama by Rocío Cerón, translated from the Spanish by Anna Rosenwong; The Guest in the Wood by Elisa Biagini, translated from the Italian by Diana Thow, Sarah Stickney, and Eugene Ostashevsky; Wheel with a Single Spokeby Nichita Stănescu, translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter; and Spectacle & Pigsty by Kiwao Nomura, translated from the Japanese by Kyoko Yoshida and Forrest Gander.
This year’s fiction jury is made up of: Amanda Bullock (Literary Arts, Portland), Heather Cleary, translator from the Spanish, co-founder of the Buenos Aires Review), Kevin Elliott (57th Street Books), Kate Garber (192 Books), Jason Grunebaum (translator from the Hindi, writer), Mark Haber (writer, Brazos Bookstore), Stacey Knecht (translator from Czech and Dutch), Amanda Nelson (Book Riot), and P.T. Smith (writer and reader).
The poetry jury includes: Jarrod Annis (Greenlight Bookstore), Katrine Øgaard Jensen (Words Without Borders), Tess Lewis (writer and translator), Becka McKay (writer and translator), and Deborah Smith (writer, translator, founder of Tilted Axis).
Additionally, over the next month, leading up to the announcement of the shortlists, Three Percent will be featuring a different title each day as part of the “Why This Book Should Win” series.