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In Translation

The 2018 Translation Prizes: Shortlists

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Tara Cheesman

Staff Writer

Tara Cheesman reads books. Sometimes she writes about the books she reads. It's all a bit arbitrary. Most of this reading and writing happens in a small brick house in the Pennsylvania city where she lives with her husband, two dogs and an ever-expanding library of books translated from languages she doesn’t speak or understand. She's currently considering getting a tortoise, because tortoises seem like good company. When not reading, writing or tending to her extensive collection of wooden pencils, Tara spends her time exploring cities in search of bookshops and art exhibits. She was a panelist at the 2015 PEN World Voices Festival and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Since 2009 she’s written the blog BookSexy Review. You can find her on Twitter @BookSexyReview. (Please feel free to tweet her your opinions on both books and pencils).

I was just thinking the other day that there’s a community of readers that don’t get the exposure of the Romance, YA, Mystery and Sci-Fi/Fantasy communities. There’s not as many of us out there, but we’re just as obsessed. Readers of translated literature (finding a better name definitely wouldn’t hurt the cause) is a real thing. We’re not book snobs—we don’t ONLY read translations—but we do go out of our way to find them (and they aren’t always that easy to find). And May is an exciting month for us. ‘Tis the season for shortlists! The three major translation prizes have all announced their list—the 2018 Best Translated Book Award, the Man Booker International Prize and the PEN Translation Prize (PEN has already selected their winner).  I’ve included all three below, along with some completely random facts about the books in contention at the end.

translation prizes shortlists

Man Booker International Prize

  • Vernon Subutex 1, Viginie Despantes—France, Frank Wynn, tr. (MacLehose Press)
  • The White Book, Hang Kang—South Korea, Deborah Smith, tr. (Portobello Books)
  • The World Goes On, László Krasznahorkai—Hungary, John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet & George Szirtes, tr. (Tuskar Rock Press / New Directions)
  • Like a Fading Shadow, Antonio Muñoz Molina—Spain, Camilo A. Ramirez, tr. (Tuskar Rock Press / Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  • Frankenstein in Baghdad, Ahmed Saadawi—Iraq, Jonathan Wright, tr. (Oneworld / Penguin)
  • Flights, Olga Tokarczuk—Poland, Jennifer Croft, tr. (Fitzcarraldo Editions/Riverhead)

    PEN America Translation Prize

    Best Translated Book Award for Fiction

    • The Invented Part, Rodrigo Fresan—Argentina, Will Vanderhyden, tr. (Open Letter Books)
    • My Heart Hemmed In, Marie NDiaye—France, Jordan Stump, tr. (Two Lines Press)
    • Remains of Life, Wu He—Taiwan, Michael Berry, tr. (Columbia University Press)
    • August, Romina Paula—Argentina, Jennifer Croft, tr. (The Feminist Press at CUNY)
    • Old Rendering Plant, Wolfgang Hilbig—Germany, Isabel Fargo Cole, tr. (Two Lines Press)
    • Return to the Dark Valley, Santiago Gamboa—Columbia, Howard Curtis, tr. (Europa Editions)
    • CompassMathias Enard—France, Charlotte Mandell, tr. (New Directions)
    • I Am the Brother of XX by Fleur Jaeggy—Switzerland, but writes in Italian, Gini Alhadeff, tr. (New Directions)
    • Tomas Jonsson, Bestseller, Gudberger Bergsson—Iceland, Lytton Smith, tr. (Open Letter Books)
    • Suzanne, Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette—Canada, Rhonda Mullins, tr. (Coach House)

    Completely Random Facts

    There are 21 spots on the combined shortlists. No book appears on more than one shortlist.

    There were 48 spots on the combined longlists (Man Booker International Prize—13, PEN Translation Prize—10 and Best Translated Book Award—25. No book appeared on more than one longlist.

    4 books on the Man Booker International Prize shortlist were not eligible for the 2018 U.S. prizes.

    14 countries are represented on the combined short lists. France, with 3 books, is the most represented. Argentina, Colombia, South Korea, and Spain have 2 books each.

    11 languages are represented on the combined short lists. 4 books are translated from French, 2 from Korean, 2 from Hungarian, 6 from Spanish, and 1 each from Arabic, Chinese, German, Hebrew, Icelandic, Italian and Polish.

    There are 22 individual translators represented. Jennifer Croft has 1 book each shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize and The Best Translated Book Award.

    There are 18 publishers on the list. New Directions has 3 books on the combined shortlists.

    10 female & 11 male writers are represented across the three lists.

    11 female & 12 male translators are represented across the three lists.

    There are at least three books of reportage/memoir on the combined shortlists: The Book of Emma Reyes, Remains of Life & Suzanne.

    László Krasznahorkai (2015) and Hang Kang (2016), both shortlisted for this year’s Man Booker International Prize, are past winners of the Prize. Krasznahorkai also won The Best Translated Book Award for Fiction twice (2013 & 2014).

    A Horse Walks Into A Bar by David Grossman is shortlisted for this years PEN America Translation Prize. It won last year’s Man Booker International Prize.

    Margaret Jull Costa co-translated (with Robin Patterson) last year’s winner of the Best Translated Book Award for Fiction: Chronicle of the Murdered House by Lucio Cardosa.

    The Man Booker International Prize winner will be announced May 22, 2018.

    The Best Translated Book Award winner will be announced May 31, 2018.

    Katalan Street by Magda Szabo, translated by Len Rix, won the PEN American Translation Prize.