Best Translated Book Award 2014 Fiction Longlist

The BTBA Fiction Longlist has just been released and, unlike the recently released International Foreign Fiction Prize 2014 longlist*, has some notable work from Central and Eastern Europe on it.

First of all, regarding the IFFP list, and I don’t want to sound like Vladimir Putin (though I too have been accused of being both “in another world” and “out of touch with reality”): how can an International Foreign Fiction Prize longlist not have any Russian novels on it, with not only all the great contemporary Russian writers being translated, but even older works like the Krzhizhanovsky on the BTBA list? (I know Andreï Makine, on the IFPP list, is Russian, but he writes in French). I think there should be an independent inquiry, and if in the end we find that the so-called judges’ bathrooms were equipped with gold toilets, I, for one, will not be surprised.

*Two IFPP longlisted writers were born in East Germany – Birgit Vanderbeke and Julia Franck – but moved to West Germany at the ages of five and eight respectively, so – it doesn’t really count – though it’s close and their novels both look fascinating.

As to the BTBA list: Making it is the book I chose as #1 on my “Best Books of 2013”: The Devil’s Workshop by Jáchym Topol, translated from the Czech by Alex Zucker. So, there you have your winner.

As to the other books from the region on the list, they are all big names: Blinding by Mircea Cărtărescu, translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter; Her Not All Her by Elfriede Jelinek, translated from the German by Damion Searls; Seiobo There Below by László Krasznahorkai, translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet; Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, translated from the Russian by Joanne Turnbull; and City of Angels, or, The Overcoat of Dr. Freud by Christa Wolf, translated from the German by Damion Searls.

Come to think of it, I’m still surprised by the lack of Russian fiction on the list, but I won’t go so far as to accuse the judges of having gold toilets (gold-plated maybe) because it’s such a good list – the Spanish fiction looks great though I wish Joaquín Pérez Azaústre’s The Swimmers was on it too. And I love Rodrigo Rey Rosa. But you can’t fit everything, even on a longlist.

The finalists for fiction and poetry will be announced April 15 (the IFPP shortlist will be announced April 8 at the London Book Fair).

Go to Three Percent and read more about the list.

Photo – Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky on holiday in Italy in 1912.

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Categories: Literary Prizes


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