Finnegan’s List 2013

A feminist version of Don Juan, a 900-page work of Greek surrealism that is a mixture of Joyce, Freud and Breton, one of the best Russian novels of the 20th century  – and 27 more to go.

The European Society of Authors released its third annual Finnegan’s List at this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, with its release coinciding with list co-editor Katrin Thomaneck sitting on a panel on forgotten literatures discussing the project. It is difficult enough to draw attention to books that aren’t about sadomasochistic relationships or wizards-in-training, let alone about forgotten books from one of the many different languages in Europe and its surroundings.

So the idea was to have 10 famous authors versed in multiple languages choose three books they want to be more widely translated, invite these writers to different festivals to promote these books and get publishers interested (publishers listen to famous writers apparently, though I fear famous carries more weight than writer).

“The idea of literary ambassadors isn’t new,” Thomaneck said, citing André Gide’s introducing Dostoevsky to French readers. Thomaneck added that the project has already shown some success, with French writer Louis Calaferte (1928–1994), a writer chosen on last year’s list whose work has been confined to the French language, will now be translated into German.

Thomaneck made an interesting point that this year’s list bears out, I think, which is that when those selecting books were only writers they tended to choose almost entirely within their own language while when they were also translators they made a much more diverse selection. It was an interesting selection committee, with not only a strong Central and Eastern European component (Ilma Rakusa, Oksana Zabuzhko, Georgi Gospodinov, Gabriela Adameşteanu, Jaroslav Rudiš) but non-Europeans, or as Thomaneck said, a  group that should provoke a discussion of where the borders of Europe end – in the cultural sense (Alberto Manguel, Argentina; Samar Yazbek, Syria; Etgar Keret, Israel; Tariq Ali, British Pakistani).

The last member and only Western European candidate is Arnon Grunberg, who is a candidate for both of the above categories – having lived in New York since his early twenties and being an honorary Central European by virtue of his German parentage, Jewish themes and, most importantly, the fact that I’ll have an interview up on literalab with him soon. And since literalab is a site devoted to Central European writing it follows that that’s what he is.

You can see the full Finnegan’s List 2013 online here, including Adam Thirlwell’s introduction and short bios of this year’s committee.

You can read a more detailed account in which the authors comment on their recommendations in PDF here.

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