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In Translation

Announcing the Best Translated Book Award 2019 Winners

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Pierce Alquist

Senior Contributor

Pierce Alquist is a transplanted New Yorker living and working in the publishing scene in Boston. Don’t worry if she fooled you, the red hair is misleading. She’s a literature in translation devotee and reviewer and lover of small, independent presses. A voracious traveler and foodie, you can find her in her kitchen making borscht or covered in red pepper paste as she perfects her kimchi recipe.

The Best Translated Book Award 2019 winners were announced at the New York Rights Fair and on The Millions. The Best Translated Book Award brings attention to the best works of translated literature published in the previous year. Thanks to grant funds from the Amazon Literary Partnership the award has given out more than $150,000 to international authors and their translators.

I’ve been a fan of the Best Translated Book Award for years and was thrilled to be chosen as a member for this year’s fiction jury. It’s a great honor to announce these winners and my immense congratulations to all of the authors, translators, and publishers that made the amazing longlists. (This year’s lists alone feature authors writing in sixteen different languages, from twenty-four different countries.)

Best Translated Book Award 2019 Winners

The award in fiction goes to Slave Old Man, written by Patrick Chamoiseau, translated from French and Creole by Linda Coverdale, and published by The New Press

Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau. Best Translated Book Award 2019 WinnersThe fiction jury writes, “In turns biblical and mythical, Patrick Chamoiseau’s Slave Old Man is a powerful reckoning with the agonies of the past and their persistence into the present. It is a modern epic, a history of the Caribbean, and a tribute to Creole languages, all told through the story of one slave old man. Linda Coverdale’s translation sings as she beautifully renders language as lush and vividly alive as the wilderness the old man plunges into in his flight to freedom.

It is dreamy yet methodical prose, vivid, sensual but also a touch strange, forcing you to slow down and reread. Thoughtful, considered footnotes provide added context and explanation, enriching the reader’s understanding of this powerful and subversive work of genius by a master storyteller. Slave Old Man is a thunderclap of a novel. His rich language, brilliant in Coverdale’s English, evokes the underground forces of resistance that carry the slave old man away. It’s a novel for fugitives, and for the future.”

And the poetry award goes to Of Death. Minimal Odes, written by Hilda Hilst, translated from Portuguese by Laura Cesarco Eglin, and published by co-im-press.

Of Death. Minimal Odes by Hilda Hilst. Best Translated Book Award 2019 WinnersThe poet jury writes, “The first collection of Hilda Hilst’s poetry to be appear in English, Of Death. Minimal Odes is masterfully translated by Laura Cesarco Eglin. Hilda Hilst’s odes are searing, tender blasphemies. One is drawn to Of Death in the way we’re drawn to things that might be dangerous. These are poems that lure readers well beyond their best interests, regardless of whatever scars might be sustained. In language that is twisted, animalistic, yet at times plain, Eglin reveals another layer in the work of this Brazilian great.”

The fiction jury included Pierce Alquist (Book Riot), Caitlin L. Baker (Island Books), Kasia Bartoszyńska (Monmouth College), George Carroll (, Tara Cheesman (freelance book critic), Adam Hetherington (reader), Keaton Patterson (Brazos Bookstore), Sofia Samatar (writer), Elijah Watson (A Room of One’s Own). The poetry jury included Jarrod Annis (Greenlight Bookstore), Katrine Øgaard Jensen (EuropeNow), Tess Lewis (writer and translator), Aditi Machado (poet and translator), and Laura Marris (writer and translator).