On Tuesday, April 9, the Best Translated Book Awards (BTBA) announced this year’s fiction and poetry finalists, after which they were honored at an event held at UR. Three Percent, UR’s website devoted to featuring and promoting translation and international literature, also announced the finalists on their website.
Started in 2007, the BTBA has recognized an assortment of translated texts in the hope of garnering a better sense of appreciation and attention to the many works of international literature. This year, a total of 10 book finalists and six poetry finalists were announced to go on to a panel of judges who will ultimately decide the winner.
“In previous years, there was much less consensus than we saw this year when choosing a list,” Jeff Waxman, a fiction committee member, said. “That 11 very different readers have all found these books so exceptional speaks volumes about the incredible appeal of the shortlist — this is some of the best fiction of the year, in any language.”
Only books that were published between December 1, 2010 and December 31, 2011 were eligible for this year’s award. The other consideration for eligibility is that the works have to be completely original translations, meaning they are being translated into English for the first time ever. The quality of the original book, as well as the artistry of the English translation of the book, is the basic criteria that is used to determine the winning titles.
“Each year the panel has discussions about what qualities of the text they want to reward and why,” Open Letter Books Publisher and Editor of Three Percent Chad Post said. “It could be the book itself, the role of the translator, the fact that literature from country X is almost completely ignored in America … any number of reasons. But they decide upon those during their secret deliberations, which I’m not privy to.”
The BTBA is supported by Amazon.com, which provides prize money to the winning authors and translators. Both the author and translator receive a $5,000 cash prize.
Through recognizing both translated and international literature, the BTBA has brought a vast amount of international literature to English-language readers.
“The vast majority of these books don’t receive a single book review in the mainstream press, and are only available at a handful of bookstores in metro areas and in the vast digital wilds of Amazon.com,” Post said.
The winners of the BTBA award will be announced in New York City on May 4 at McNally Jackson Books as a part of the PEN World Voices Festival.
Brief summaries of the 10 fiction finalists and poetry finalists can be found at besttranslatedbook.org, as well as at rochester.edu/college/translation/threepercent.
Mariner is a member of the class of 2015.