The Mookse and the Gripes discussion

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Best Translated Book Award > 2018 BTBA Speculation

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message 1: by Trevor (last edited Aug 29, 2017 09:24AM) (new)

Trevor (Mookse) | 1375 comments Mod
Over at Three Percent, Chad Post has announced the dates and judges for next year's prize, so it's time to start preparing here as well!

As much as I loved being a judge last year, I must say I'm thrilled to not be one this year. I want to be part of this speculation!

So, what are the eligible books you WANT to see on the list and the ones you THINK should be on the list? And what are the ones you hope are NOT on the list?

For the Translation Database, used to figure out which books are eligible (though it's not always up-to-date or entirely correct), go here.


message 2: by Trevor (last edited Aug 29, 2017 09:56AM) (new)

Trevor (Mookse) | 1375 comments Mod
Here are some, most of which I have read, but a few I'm processing or have read about:

- Kingdom Cons , by Yuri Herrera and translated by Lisa Dillman. Herrera won a couple of years ago, and I've liked his books. This one, though, is not as strong to me. I wouldn't like to see it on the list.

- Antagony, Book I , by Juan Goytisolo and translated by Brendan Riley. I'm afraid I haven't started this one yet, but it seems like one we should have our eyes on. Brendan has told me that the plan is to release each of the four books in the series, one per year until it's done.

- The Seventh Function of Language , by Laurent Binet and translated by Sam Taylor. This is a wonderful translation, but I didn't care much for the book.

- The Red-Haired Woman , by Orhan Pamuk and translated by Ekin Oklap. I'm reading this one currently. I always fall into Pamuk's stories, though they often don't leave much of an effect. I can see that being the case here as well.

- The Little Buddhist Monk / The Proof , by Cesar Aira and translated by Nick Caistor. I loved The Little Buddhist Monk, which is probably my favorite Aira for years. I was less impressed with The Proof. Despite my love for the first, I'm okay with this not making the list.

- Compass , by Mathias Enard and translated by Charlotte Mandell. This is up there for best of the year for me. I loved it and hope/expect to see it on the list.

- The World Goes On , by Laszlo Krasznahorkai and translated by John Batki, Ottilie Mulzet and George Szirtes. Well, how can this miss? I have read the first few stories here, and I simply cannot get enough of his work. I'll have more thoughts as I get more under my belt.

- Devils in Daylight , by Junichiro Tanizaki and translated by J. Keith Vincent. I loved this but don't quite think it's one I'd like to see on the BTBA. It was fun and well worth reading, but I hope for more in a contender than what I found here.

- Radiant Terminus , by Antoine Volodine and translated by Jeffrey Zuckerman. A FAVORITE! I loved this one unconditionally. It's a great piece of sci-fi, beautifully written and wonderfully complex. If I were on the jury, it might just be the book I'd force onto the list at this stage.

- For Two Thousand Years For Two Thousand Years, by Mihail Sebastian and translated by Philip O Ceallaigh. Definitely another strong contender to take it all. Just read the first page and try to leave it alone.

- The Evenings , by Gerard Reve and translated by Sam Garrett. I have started this one but I haven't finished it yet. I think it could be among those on the list based on what I've read so far, though.

- Such Small Hands , by Andres Barba and translated by Lisa Dillman. I have read this one twice, admiring it the first time and having it grow in personal affection the second. Still, I'm not sure where I stand. Is it great? I don't think it's quite as good as it's being made out to be, but I cannot shake it either.

- My Heart Hemmed In , by Marie NDiaye and translated by Jordan Stump. Another favorite I am certain I'd be voting for. This may be my favorite NDiaye.

- Blameless , by Claudio Magris and translated by Anne Milano Appel. This is another I'm conflicted on. On the one hand, it's powerful and interesting. On the other, I didn't disagree with much that John Self wrote in his take-down here. Indeed, strangely, his take-down made me admire the book more. But I'm still not sure I'd vote for it.

- Sundays in August , by Patrick Modiano and translated by Damion Searls. I just reviewed this one at my blog, and it's my favorite Modiano. Will others be as taken with it as I was? Possibly not, but I hope so!

- Such Fine Boys , by Patrick Modiano and translated by Mark Polizzoti. I will be reviewing this one. I liked it much less than Sundays in August and would put it down the list of Modianos to read. It's a fine series of vignettes, but not much more for me.


message 3: by Sara (new)

Sara G | 125 comments The Twenty Days of Turin by Giorgio de Maria - I'd say this will be a 'no'. It's very specific to its historical period and didn't resonate with me here in 2017.

The Woman on the Stairs by Bernard Schlink - This book is absolutely terrible so I hope it doesn't make any longlist. Ugh.

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin, translated by Megan McDowell - This is a fantastic book and I would push it onto the shortlist.

Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez, translated by Megan McDowell - An eerie set of short stories that use horror to portray the problems of modern Argentina. It and Fever Dream could be companion books. I enjoyed this collection, but Fever Dream has a better chance I think, because as a novella it is much tighter.


message 4: by Matthias (new)

Matthias | 39 comments Im Frühling sterben by Ralf Rothmann, translated by Shaun Whiteside.

The author declined to be nominated for last year's German Book Award. Fascinating take on the theme "What did father do during the war?"


message 5: by Sara (new)

Sara G | 125 comments Also, I am glad that you get to participate with us this year Trevor, although I'm sure the BTBA will miss you!


message 6: by Eric (new)

Eric | 171 comments Welcome back to speculating, Trevor. I've read four eligible books so far this year.

The Invented Part - Rodrigo Fresan (Will Vanderhyden). I'd like to see this on the longlist for sure.

Fever Dream - Samanta Schweblin (Megan McDowell). It was a great read, and I had a hard time putting it down, but I've cooled on it since. It will likely still be one of my favorites though when all is said and done.

Inheritance from Mother - Minae Mizumura (Juliet Winters Carpenter) and
Human Acts - Han Kang (Deborah Smith). Neither of which was really my style, though both had much to recommend them to other readers I'd think.

I'm looking forward to a bunch of the titles you listed above, Trevor. When I get to them, well that's another story.


message 7: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 2238 comments Mod
Hopefully the 2018 judges will correct the one error made by the 2017 judges and include some K-lit.

Human Acts by Han Kang/Deborah Smith has to be there - 5 stars all the way for me

and The Impossible Fairy Tale by Han Yujoo/Janet Hong (and commissioned by Deborah Smith's new publishing house) is a strong contender, albeit there is a lot of word play which doesn't translate perfectly.

I've also heard good things about Yi Mun-yol's Meeting with My Brother.

So no excuses this year - although there weren't any last year either :-)


message 8: by Tony (new)

Tony | 122 comments Many of these are books I enjoyed. I'd definitely second the praise for Compass, For Two Thousand Years, The Evenings, Such Small Hands, Fever Dream, and Human Acts :)


message 9: by Deborah (new)

Deborah (BrandieC) | 44 comments Team The Invented Part here!


message 10: by Dan (new)

Dan Friedman | 585 comments I don’t systematically follow the BTBA. But on Trevor’s recommendations above, I recently finished Radiant Terminus and I’m now reading For Two Thousand Years. I agree that Radiant Terminus is remarkable, gripping, and thought-provoking. For Two Thousand Years? In my naïveté, it’s remarkable to me that it hasn’t been translated into English earlier.


message 11: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (Mookse) | 1375 comments Mod
This is great to hear, Dan!


message 12: by Sara (new)

Sara G | 125 comments Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller - Guðbergur Bergsson - Called the "Icelandic Ulysses". It could make the long list, possibly short list. It's an extremely difficult read for multiple reasons and I'm struggling to see if it will be worth it to me, personally, by the end.

Savage Theories - Pola Oloixarac - This book strikes me as very "American", with postmodern Pynchonesque elements and the sexually forward and often disgusting female characters, like a more stylistically adventurous Ottessa Moshfegh. Despite all this, which all count as pluses to me, this book bounced off of me. I could see it being longlist but not shortlist.

Katalin Street- Magda Szabó - Szabo is great, but I don't see this one making the list.


message 13: by WndyJW (last edited Sep 18, 2017 02:51PM) (new)

WndyJW | 480 comments I am particularly excited about this part of TMTG. I am familiar with most award winning books and know how to find my next good book, but I am clueless when it comes to books in translation.
So far I have relied on nyrb classic for worthy translations. I am currently reading Skylark and enjoying it.


message 14: by Lascosas (new)

Lascosas | 198 comments My almost annual attempt to read all Dalkey translations. For 2017 there are supposed to be 35. It is a good Dalkey year. Here's my first batch. Should the book be longlisted for the BTBA?

Yes
Rein Raud – The Reconstruction
Estonian novel. Yet one more novel attempting to come to grips with the transition between Soviet oppression and life in a freer, messier post-Soviet world. For me, this one hits the spot. Our narrator tells us at the beginning of the book that he is dying of a never mentioned disease. He has only a few months to live, and a few times during the story he lets the reader know that things are getting worse, death is nearer. But his tone is oh so Soviet. Everything is muted, so understated that it is barely felt. For example he tells us that the age at which he will die, 55 I believe, is typical for his family. It is about when his father and grandfather died. One was a musician in the military. They coddled the musicians so as not to hurt their hands. He had an easy job cleaning up and inspecting. And then one day they were sent to inspect the area around Chernobyl after the nuclear 'event' and to appear on TV saying everything was just fine. He died soon after. All told in this muted, matter-of-fact voice.

This voice well serves the plot. Our narrator is investigating the suicide of his one child, a daughter who died, with several others, three years previously. He sets out to reconstruct what happened before he dies, hence the book's title. He interviews everyone he can find, reviews documents, visits the sites important to this reconstruction. But basically he listens and records. And does not judge. What he discovers is. on its surface, a religious cult that has committed mass suicide. But the story is much more nuanced and compelling than this. Told by a quintessential citizen/victim of the Soviet mentality, it reconstructs the earnest efforts of the next generation, the post-Soviet youth, to figure out their world.

Maybe
Jean Echenoz – We Three
Echenoz at his most Echenozy. Our main character, an aerospace engineer, heads to Marseilles for a much needed vacation. Driving from Paris he stops to help a woman whose car has broken down. She is elegant, wealthy, and he is very willing to help out. She, on the other hand, barely acknowledges his existence. A couple of days later he sees her again in Marseilles and follows her into an elevator. Halfway up there is an earthquake, and the two eventually find themselves on the street, surrounded by dust and rubble. They walk from the epicenter, and soon are in an area of town that seems unaware of the earthquake. She, eager to return to Paris, simply walks into the nearest car dealership, writes a check for a new car, and off they go, spending a couple of days on the highway before they return to Paris. The book includes other adventures, but until almost the end, she continues to refuse to tell him anything about herself. The two live through several adventures, but because of her demeanor, she rarely exists as a fully fledged character. Which is the point. We have an adventure story, but everything, including the beautiful leading lady, are a tad off.

All of this provides plenty of opportunities for the author's humor and odd way of looking at the world. The scene I most enjoyed was the party in Marseilles, with the strange set of people all fitting various stereotypes of hangers on. Everyone is smashed, on the make, somewhat interesting to talk to, and will return tomorrow for the next party.

A weird coincidence. The book I read before this was Cortazar's Autonauts of the Cosmoroute. He and his wife drove from Paris to Marseilles, driving two rest stops per day and never leaving the highway system. It took more than a month, and by the end of the book (which I thoroughly enjoyed) I felt very connected to that stretch of highway and its variety of rest stops. So to have the very next book prominently feature travel on the same road was a nice surprise.

Luis Goytisolo – Recounting, Antagony, Book 1
First volume of a famous, important tetralogy by the brother of Juan Goytisolo. I don't understand why this hasn't previously been translated, and Dalkey has apparently agreed to publish all four volumes. The first volume is 760 pages, but the others are considerably shorter. Typically Dalkeyish that there have been no reviews of this book, and apparently no publicity. Why? This is most important novel to be translated into English during 2017.

It is often called the Spanish Ulysses, with Barcelona serving in place of Joyce's Dublin, though it is Barcelona over years, not simply one day. The author is trying to recreate the kaleidoscope of Barcelona and surrounding area between the end of the civil war and death of Franco, told through the prospective of a young boy growing up first in a rural town and later in Barcelona where he tries to becomes a writer. It is a region that bitterly fought against Franco, and is portrayed as being ruled by an occupying force that never trusted the locals. This of course is a bitter taste that never left, and is most clearly shown in the recent referendum.

Most important is the language. Not quite stream of consciousness, but the author takes you to details of architecture, nature, sounds, sights. All thrown together in a language that is off-kilter, internal and idiosyncratic. Exactly the type of book I normally love, and I was so looking forward to reading this. I've had the Spanish language version (published as a single volume) for years. So why is it only a maybe on my list? Dalkey and the translation. There were just too many instances where the choice of a word makes a whole paragraph clunk. And the grammatical errors! Oh my gosh, high even for Dalkey. “crowned by Montsant, of the which” “of the which the formalization of the courtship”. I read this when it came out, several months ago. It has not been a book that stayed with me. For some reason I can't quite put my finger on it simply didn't gel for me, all of the pyrotechnical flurry of words and images didn't add up. Maybe I am being unfair to blame a share of that on the translator, but that was my annoyed conclusion when I finished the book.

No
Orly Castel Bloom – An Egyptian Novel
A rather claustrophobic family chronicle in Israel, both in a kibbutz and after being expelled for Stalinism a decade after everyone in the kibutz had moved off the topic, they moved to Tel Aviv. The main character is the Older Daughter (yep, her name in the book) and her attempt to fit in with both the family and bigger society. As you can tell from this 'review' the whole book just kind of washed over me without making much of an impression. The title comes from the joke that the family's ancestors were the only Jews who refused to follow Moses out of Egypt. I remember liking Dolly City somewhat more.

Viktor Shklovsky – Life of a Bishop's Assistant
Prime Dalkey! Minor, but great fun, Shklovsky, who is much better known as a critic than a novelist, and whose 'best' known novel is Zoo. Love letters written with one requirement: no mention of love. This book is a history. It actually reads more like an 18th century history book than a novel. The book commences: “In 1751 the Malorussian herman Razumovsky and the bishop Kirill, who was also memorable, rode through the town of Sevsk on hundreds of wagons. In 1752, a boy was born and christened Gavriil in the family of the priest Ivan Dobrynin.”

The novel 'records' the first few decades of Gavriil's life. No ornamentation or conjecture to this tale, just a sparse telling of the 'facts.' But by providing thousands of pieces of information, all given equal weight, the author is able to cloak a scathing tale of witchcraft, hedonism, ignorance, cruelty, cunning, betrayal, bribery as a straight-forward biography of a man who becomes the bishop's assistant. It could have been sub-titled How to Succeed in 18th C Russia. Or in 20th C? In case you aren't inclined to read the book, I can summarize the lessons learned. Be cunning, ruthless and quick to grab.

Mara Zalite – Five Fingers
Very interesting book. Stalin was big on lessening the chances of civil unrest in the far flung reaching of the Soviet Union by forcibly moving large numbers of people from one place to another, particularly to Siberia. This book describes the history of one such family exiled from Latvia. As the book starts, the mother and father are moving back to Latvia with their five year old daughter, who of course has never known anything other than Siberia, and for whom Latvia is a mythical, perfect land from which her parents have been exiled. But Estonia in the early 1960s is not perfection. It is a land of petty grievances, Russian overlords and a land largely destroyed. There is, however, one major problem with the book. The narrator is the precocious five year old daughter. I loath child narrators.

Sara Mesa – Scars
Big shout out to the first time translator of this book, Adriana Nodal-Tarafa. Every sentence is crisp, well written. And unusual for Dalkey these days, without typos! She is a graduate of Dalkey's translation program, and I hope we see many more of her translations.

The introduction includes a couple of unusual comments. A representative of of book's original publisher, the awesome Anagrama Press “presented me with options for translation that might suit the aesthetic of Dalkey.” What the heck does that mean???

The book is an examination, somewhat forensic, of an online correspondence over many years of a man (Knut) and woman (Sonia). They meet only once, but particularly on his side, the online interactions are obsessive beyond belief. He is intelligent, generous and moderately self aware. He is also demanding, selfish and phobic. He apparently earns a living shoplifting (apparently because we know nothing about him except what he writes to her). He steals books and sends them to her. Her responsibility is to reimburse him the postage and discuss the books with him. But over time the number of books, like the volume and intensity of the emails, becomes obsessive, overwhelming her. And then he shifts the gifts to perfume, lingerie, expensive fashions. While he appears to have little life outside his bedroom she has a job, child, husband. Though the husband disappears soon and we hear little about her job, child or anything else. This is really just a dissection of their very odd relationship, this scar in both of their lives. Well done and believable in all of its details, showing unusually how the power shifts from one to another and back again subtly over the years.


message 15: by Lascosas (new)

Lascosas | 198 comments Yes
Pierre Senges – Fragments of Lichtenberg
Definitely one of the best books in any genre that I've read this year, wonderfully translated by Gregory Flanders. Main negative? Over 20 grammatical errors (almost all consisting of leaving out or repeating a word). Yes it is a long (450 pages) and compositionally (new word) challenging book (endless notes in the side columns), but still...

Georg Christoph Lichenberg was a German scientist who lived in the second half of the 18th century. In addition to his scientific work he kept a series of notebooks consisting of miscellaneous thoughts. After his death some of the notebooks were published, while others were destroyed. Pierre Senges took the idea of these notebooks and created a simply wonderful universe from them. First there are the writings, which Senges calls fragments, and each of which is an actual quote from the notebooks. Second we have the outline of Lichtenberg's life. He traveled twice to England, and almost nowhere else. Built on these fragments and a few biographical details, Senges creates the most marvelous universe of Lichtenberians.

In this fictional world, the first requirement is to find, and then study, the fragments. Good old Alfred Nobel was around trying to find ways to spend his money. So he endows the Lichtenberg Archives which in turn give out an endless number of grants for researchers to study the fragments, and for others to ramble around the world looking for additional fragments. Supervising all of this are the archive grandees. They examine the work of the various researchers and give a thumbs up or more often down, on the various discoveries. And what are these discoveries? Well, you can't simply have fragments. They must be fragments of something. So over the decades researchers propose different 'somethings' and when one obtains the blessing of the grandees, others try to squish the fragments into that concept. Concepts include Ovid in Rome and Noah's Ark.

The book consists of endless chapters of numerous subject, all jumbled together. There are chapters (many) on Lichtenberg's gibbosity (not a typo), others on his hypochondria and a running History of the Lichtenbergians. Throughout, a few hundred of the actual fragments are included, along with endless notes running down the left and right of the text.

The fragments themselves are wacky yet thoughtful. Three examples taken at random...
[F1079] The drive to propagate our species has also propagated many other things.
[H 84] -Has this young woman not developed an exquisite chest?
-Very true, it is what Horace called a bene preparatum pectus
[L 73] He stomped slowly and proudly ahead like a hexameter, while his wife came tripping along after him like a pentameter.

Adding layer after layer of quotations, endless debates by the grandees and researchers and a detailed examination of both Litchenberg and the Lichtenbergians provides a serious, scholarly analysis of the fragments and their creator. Except...it is all bullshit. An entire world constructed from basically nothing. A wonderful send-up of scholarship and intellectual rigor. Great fun, hugely recommended.

I ordered the only other book of Senges translated into English, The Major Refutation (published by the Dalkeyish Contra Mundum Press). A supposed treatise from the early 16th century refuting the 'allegation' that any new world was discovered by Columbus and the other scammers. The problem I had is that my copy arrived with about 40% of the pages missing! It goes from pages 4, 5 then blank double page, then 8, 9 missing 10 then goes on to 11 with the next 5 pages missing. How the heck did that happen? Anyway, Senges has published tons, and hopefully more will be translated, because he is pretty great, and this book can certainly serve as Exhibit A as to why Dalkey is my favorite press.

Maybe
Luis Magrinya – Double Room
Four stories, each in turn divided into two stories, two double rooms. The first three doubles are simply wonderful, but a less successful final double story is why I've nicked it down to a 'maybe.' The unusual element of the stories is the sophisticated and ever so nuanced internal voice of the various narrators.

Take the first story, the only one where the two doubles are hinged sections of the same narrative. The narrator is a successful publisher in her 50s who is engaged to be married to the lead singer in his early 30s of a band about to release its first album. But not one of the words in the previous sentence is explained in a simple, factual manner, and each word, each facet of the world described, has endless gradations of meaning that reminded this reader that every written word is a simplification, and that the infinite nuances of reality are impossible to convey. But this story does a darned good job of it.

Another story is about an obsessive who needs to document all aspects of his life, including cutting a piece of carpet to 'document' it as part of his narrative. This same character appears in the second story of the pairing. A reporter who has been given his big break, an opportunity for an important interview in a fancy hotel, and to show off the hotel to an old friend he hasn't seen in years. But everything becomes different than the narrator anticipated, and expectations shift and shift again. Similar shifts occur in the other two stories.

Not only is it a rare accomplishment to describe all of the subtlety of appearances and perception shifts, but it is particularly hard to carry off in translation, and translator Allen Young has done an excellent job.

No
Kjersti Skomsvold – Monsterhuman
”I am going to write a novel that, by a change in the language, proves that a person can change. There will be a development in the language, from a halting, stuttering, strenuous language to a more literary language, prose that smooth out, reads more simply and clearly as glass, so that through my language I will be able to show the development in myself.”

Both the author and Dalkey, as the publisher of the translation, have great courage in allowing this development to occur. The beginning of this 450 page book is stilted, ridiculously obsessive and difficult to keep reading. The reader must struggle, as the author does, to find a voice, learn how to write, and develop a combination of self-awareness and intellectual sophistication in order to give any depth to what is being written. Bravo to my favorite publisher for this!

Beyond the courage of its construction, I have absolutely nothing positive to say about this book (except it is unusual for recent Dalkeys in having no grammatical errors). This is a novel in the same way Karl Ove's My Struggle is a novel. Because the author decided to call a memoir fiction. So what we have is five years in the life of the author. Starting when she leaves 'The Old Folks Home' when she is 25 after almost a decade. She is suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, and much of the book is her struggle to regain, and then maintain, her mental and physical health. But most of the time she isn't noticeably struggling. She is instead noticeably doing nothing. “I mostly sit alone in my recliner, so I can think about myself as much as I want.”

The blurb on the back of the book refers to the book as “a funny, sad, astoundingly energetic novel.” The word “laugh” appears dozens of times in the book, and apparently both she and Dalkey think the author is extremely humorous. I beg to differ. None of the endless supposed jokes in the book are humorous, and as for 'astoundingly energetic' I thought maybe that was another joke. The book drips with lethargy. The main character is whiny, completely self-absorbed, and stupendously selfish. She has never had a job, is permanently on welfare, but somehow manages to buy an apartment and a car and travels. Her connections with others are superficial and the only scene I enjoyed in the entire overly long book was when her boyfriend Erik finally dumped her. A long, long stretch of Erick-the-doormat was finally over!


Nikola Petkovic – How to Tie Your Shoes
Very well translated by the author, this is another Dalkey that appears to closely mirror the author's life (including the name of the main character and at least the general outline of his biography). This is the story of a son and his father and of a land that became a battleground and then Croatia while the author/narrator escaped to the US to complete his education. Told in two parts with a combined 77 numbered parts in 130 pages, we experience the end of the father's life as the narrator tries to understand and make piece with a man and a land unknown and seemingly unknowable.

Vedrana Rudan – Love at Last Sight

The three sentence summary of the book on the back cover includes the statement that the book “moves with a strident feminist voice.” That is an understatement. This 220 page rant has only one point to make: men are bad, evil, violent, self-centered pricks. Women? Doormat cunts. The p and c words are among her favorite.

The book commences with our narrator riding a cloud, providing the book long explanation to the heavenly judges as to why she killed her husband. This narrative goes from childhood scenes, where her father beat-up she and her mother, both mentally and physically, to long stream-of-consciousness descriptions of her relationship with the man who becomes her husband and the father of their daughter. This guy, whose father beat up his family members, in turn controls and abuses the narrator. The last 50 pages are a gruesome description of their final argument. All told in an angry voice.

Jorge Guzman – Job-Boj
Not the most fluent translation, this novel consists of alternating chapters by the same narrator as a young man and as a 30ish academic. While the back cover of the book asks whether these two narrators are the same person, the translator in the introduction (and translator introductions are unusual for Dalkey) tells us they are the same. And we are needlessly told many other 'facts' about the novel we are about to read. Never can I remember an equally nervous introduction, so afraid that the coming narrative will be beyond the reader's ability to decipher. This is particularly baffling in a Dalkey translation where the publisher throws out dozens of translations each year with almost identical white covers and a zero marketing effort, seemingly daring people to find and read the things. So why this anxious introduction?

The young narrator (Job) is a hard working, hard playing lad taking a break from his studies to earn some money in a firm we learn little about. He drinks, plays poker, fights if necessarily to defend his mates, and awaits the arrival of his long time love. He is buoyant, energetic and happy. Living in Cochabamba, Bolivia, he envisions going to the wild forest section of Bolivia as a gold miner. While this seems merely fanciful, it is an example of his enthusiasm and youth.

The older narrator (Boj, though neither name is used in the narrative) is, until the last chapter, unhappy in everything. He has a research job in the US, is married to someone who loves him, and has a bright future ahead of him. Near the end of the book he is offered a well paid full time research position. But nothing can improve his disposition. He is depressed, lethargic and deeply unhappy.

In the last chapter Boj is in his native Chile without his long-suffering wife. We know little about his life at this stage except that he appears happier than in the previous chapters.

Ostensibly this is a study in the psyche of a character trying to find his place in the world with friends, lovers, work, place. The alternate chapters allow a comparison between the facets of our narrator over two distinct time periods, and hypothetically allow the reader to decipher what is going on. But I don't think it really succeeds.


message 16: by Eric (new)

Eric | 171 comments I've heard good things about Fragments of Lichtenberg, but I'm pretty sure that book's a little too smart for me. I may give it a go, but I don't see it going well.

Compass (Enard/Mandell), on the other hand, did go well. Shortlist for me.

Such Small Hands (Barba/Dillman). I'm in agreement with Tevor again; I liked it but thought it a bit overhyped (the little I'd heard about it anyway). Longlistable, but definitely behind Fever Dream, and much in the same vein.

Island of Point Nemo (Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès/Hannah Chute). No. Too kooky (I've never used this word before, but feels right here) and tedious. I know people were a fan of Where Tigers are at Home, so I'd be curious to see what others make of, but not for me.

My Heart Hemmed In (NDiaye/Stump). Another no, but not as No as Point Nemo. I found this one tedious as well. I thought there was enough of a conceit for a novella, but novel? Not so much. It also paled in comparison for me as an allegory (having read Coetzee's Childhood of Jesus and Schooldays of Jesus this year), and as a novel of nightmares when pitted against Fever Dream and Such Small Hands.

North Station (Bae Suah/Deborah Smith). Maybe? I enjoyed this collection, but am not entirely sure what I read, which sort of counts for and against it. I'm keen to try out more of her work. It will be interesting to see how I feel about this book in another few months.


message 18: by Lascosas (new)

Lascosas | 198 comments Party 3 of my Dalkey reviews. Should the book be longlisted?

Maybe
Kazufumi Shiraishi – The Part of Me That Isn't Broken Inside
The title well describes this book. From the start our narrator is unable to connect to others in a way that would make him vulnerable. He has a well paying job, and an apartment of his own, emotionally, he is frigid and frail. He shies away from commitments and his few connections are to others similarly messed up. This isn't a particularly novel description of a young narrator, think Catcher in the Rye, but what makes this distinctly better than most is the intense yet oblique voice of this particular narrator.

Much of the book consists of his interactions with others, and the descriptions 'feel' genuine, but without exception they are stilted, fearful or angry and hard to understand. He is both kind (he allows two other young people to stay at his apartment whenever they wish) yet unable to show kindness (he flees when anyone attempts to emotionally engage with him). This dichotomy is difficult to balance in a first person narrative, but is flawlessly kept in tune for the 300 pages. And as time goes on we, the reader, are allowed to see glimpses of his childhood that slowly explain some of his oddities, providing an increasingly knowable narrator even though he becomes only slightly less difficult and damaged by the end of the novel The distance and strangeness is substantially helped by Raj Mahtani's clear, precise translation.

No
Ignacy Karpowicz – Gestures
Another single male narrator estranged from his family, lacking in friends and lovers. He is a successful theater director, but not a very successful human being. Obligated to return to his mother's house to care for her when she becomes ill, most of the book involves his return to childhood friends and places, learning lessons he failed originally. This is reasonable well handled, and we empathize with his struggles to emotionally connect. But towards the end the story takes a melodramatic turn that ruined the delicate balance of emotions and discoveries for this reader.

Dumitru Tsepeneag – La Belle Roumaine
While I don't think this book should be longlisted, I did find it intriguing and intend to read other novels by this writer (Dalkey has published several). The book starts with a description of a small Paris bar where the owner serves coffee to a mysterious woman who recently began visiting the bar every day at about the same time, sitting at the same table, which the owner now makes certain is left vacant for her use. We slowly, oh so slowly, learn details about this lovely young woman. The Romanian accent, the fur coat, the books she reads, and what language they are in. We start to understand the outline of who she is.

And then another scene, and we realize it is the same Belle Roumaine, but in another setting, with another man, and with a different life story. And so the book goes on, forward and backwards, scenes repeated and new ones added. But always this woman with the shifting identity. She goes to the cinema and sees a movie so boring and odd that everyone else leaves...except for the man sitting next to her with whom she flirts provocatively; turning this flirting into theater exceeding anything seem in the movie. One scene from the movie concerns a caged parrot. In a later scene of the novel the woman has a caged bird, but a baby eagle, not a parrot.

Nothing makes much sense in the book, but it is an intriguing mix of possible truths woven together to create a few years in one woman's life. Is she a spy, or a prostitute? Does she have a complex life story or is she a pathological liar? We have no way of knowing, but by the end I didn't care, I simply allowed myself to flow with the narrative and our belle Roumaine.

Dan Lungu – I'm an Old Commie!
As with the Tsepeneag, this is part of Dalkey's Romanian Literature Series, though the Tsepeneag received funding from the Institutul Cultural Roman and the Lungu didn't. Rather odd.

Our narrator is an old Romanian commie who misses the good old days and the book is largely a narrative of her life growing up on a farm and then, along with most of the other rural young people, moving to town to get a job, in her case as a metal worker. She works at a single factory for her entire working career until it closes, along with most industry, after the end of the Soviet era. While she has a positive spin on everything from the good old days, we also see the cracks in the system that was clearly kept alive by coercion and corrupt incentives.

Her daughter, living in Canada, tries to convince her not to vote for the communists in the upcoming election, and this leads the narrator to ask questions of herself and others in order to examine the world she grew up in and largely admired. Somewhat interesting, but the narrative style is rather simplistic, as are the insights the narrator gleans from examining her life and that of others around her.

Martin Felipe Castagnet – Bodies of Summer
Sci fi...my least favorite genre.

When you die you go to an afterlife where you hang around in limbo, connected to the internet, waiting to pay for a new body and a return to Earth. Way too much of this short novel is spent telling us the rules applicable to this new world. When you can return, what happens if you don't want to return, how bodies are allocated. I mean...who cares?

Some philosophical issues are discussed, which is less boring. If you never permanently die, then what do murder and suicide mean? If you have enough money you can buy a more attractive body the next time, so what does that say about the relative worth of different people? Can people return as animals, and if so, does that create problems? But overall, a very thin offering.

No!
Sebastien Bretel – A Perfect Disharmony
New category. Below 'no, this shouldn't be longlisted.' No! Even if only 25 books are eligible for the longlist this shouldn't be included.

This mercifully short book consists of several short stories with first and third person narratives. All are men pruriently gazing at odd women. The women are nothing but unhealthy ticks. They never leave the house, or never eat, or bath. Or they bath endlessly all day long. While some apparently had somewhat normal aspects in their prior lives, by the time they enter the stories each is alone and deeply nuts. What makes it such a horrible book is that the narrative prospective is to fixate on each woman with a leering sexual compulsion that as a woman I find completely off-putting.

When I finished this I took it directly to the trash can. I don't want it in the house, and I certainly don't want to give it to someone else.


message 19: by Eric (new)

Eric | 171 comments Only two since the last post:
Old Rendering Plant by Wolfgang Hilbig (Isabel Fargo Cole) I really liked. Another shortlist contender.

Tomas Jonsson, Bestseller by Gudberger Bergsson (Lytton Smith) I'm less sure what to do with. I'm with Sara - that was a lot of work. I'm not sure it was worth it for me. I'm really not sure about ANYTHING to do with this book. Did I like it? Did I hate it? The only thing I am sure about is that I did not understand it. The 2 month review podcast on 3%'s website is helping, but man, I need a lot of help.


message 20: by Eric (new)

Eric | 171 comments Two more. And is anybody pondering what might be on the longlist next month yet? Too soon?

Go, Went, Gone (Jenny Erpenbeck/Susan Bernofsky) I thoroughly enjoyed and would like to see on the longlist, though it doesn't seem like a BTBA kind of book.

The Iliac Crest (Cristina Rivera Garza/Sarah Booker) did seem like it's right up the BTBA's alley. I enjoyed it, though not as much as Go, Went, Gone.

Overall, I've found this year to be a really strong year for translations.


message 21: by Sara (new)

Sara G | 125 comments I haven't finished Iliac Crest yet, but I would say I agree with both your assessment of it and Go, Went, Gone.


message 22: by Paul (last edited Mar 18, 2018 10:41AM) (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 2238 comments Mod
Eric wrote: "Go, Went, Gone (Jenny Erpenbeck/Susan Bernofsky) I thoroughly enjoyed and would like to see on the longlist, though it doesn't seem like a BTBA kind of book."

Yes. Erpenbeck's last took the overall IFFP but didn't even make the top 25 of the BTBA. Given the translation also took the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, the Schlegel-Tieck Prize, and was shortlisted for the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize, the IMPAC Prize and the US-based National Translation Award it does suggest that particular BTBA jury at least didn't see that Erpenbeck novel as a BTBA type of book for whatever reason.

Of course the jury this year may feel a need to right that wrong!


message 23: by Sara (new)

Sara G | 125 comments I think this Erpenbeck is even less BTBA-material than the last one. Go, Went, Gone is extremely topical; one review called it "reportage" and I don't disagree. I still very much enjoyed it though.


message 24: by Eric (new)

Eric | 171 comments I think End of Days got overlooked by the BTBA that year. It may not have had BTBA written all over it, but it was close enough, and obviously good enough, to warrant at least a long listing.

I really enjoyed Go, Went, Gone (much more so than End of Days), but I agree that it's definitely less BTBA material. I'd still like to at least see it make the list of 25.


message 25: by Paul (last edited Mar 28, 2018 03:00PM) (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 2238 comments Mod
On the BTBA vs MBI issue - the lack of overlap is often an eligibility point (odd part year cutoff of MBI, different publication dates, some not published at all strictly in the different countries).

From the MBI longlist I think only 4/13 are eligible for the BTBA this year - Go Went Gone, World Goes On, Like a Fading Shadow and The 7th Function of Language.

And 5 of last year's MBI are also eligible this year for the BTBA including the winner A Horse Walks Into a Bar, the Prix Goncourt winning Compass, the excellent Fever Dream (I would agree with comments above that it is superior to the similar Such Small Hands), Black Moses and Swallowing Mercury. But on those always feels neither prize is too keen on the other's left over seconds - if none of the first three of the 5 make the BTBA list I will suspect that is what has happened!


message 26: by Eric (new)

Eric | 171 comments We're less than a week out until the longlist, so here's what I've read, in order of preference. Or at least the ballpark of preference.

1. Compass - Mathias Enard (Charlotte Mandell)
2. The Invented Part - Rodrigo Fresan (Will Vanderhyden)
3. Belladonna - Dasa Drndic (Celia Hawkesworth)
4. Go, Went, Gone - Jenny Erpenbeck (Susan Bernofsky)
5. Fever Dream - Samanta Schweblin (Megan McDowell)
6. Old Rendering Plant - Wolfgang Hilbig (Isabel Fargo Cole)
7. Such Small Hands - Andres Barba (Lisa Dillman)
8. Iliac Crest - Cristina Rivera Garza (Sarah Booker)
9. North Station - Bae Suah (Deborah Smith)
10. Tomas Jonsson, Bestseller - Gudberger Bergsson (Lytton Smith)
11. Human Acts - Han Kang (Deborah Smith)
12. Inheritance From Mother - Minae Mizumura (Juliet Winters Carpenter)
13. My Heart Hemmed In - Marie NDiaye (Jordan Stump)
14. Island of Point Nemo - Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès (Hannah Chute)

I'd definitely longlist the first 7, probably the first 9. From there out, probably not. I'm also about halfway though Her Mother's Mother's Mother and Her Daughters (Maria Jose Silveira/Eric M.B. Becker), and wouldn't longlist that one either. All in all a really great year of reading translations for me.


message 27: by Sara (last edited Apr 05, 2018 07:08AM) (new)

Sara G | 125 comments North Station has really grown on me since I put it down. When I read it, I was confused and struggling a bit. Given some distance, though, I find that I still think about it quite a lot and would like to revisit it. I think whether or not it finds its way onto the longlist depends on the subjective experience of the first judge who reads it. Are they coming to it at the right time? Did they read it quickly or story by story? Did they give it time to settle? Etc.


message 28: by Eric (new)

Eric | 171 comments I actually expected North Station to grow on me, but it didn't quite do that. I feel the same about it now as I did a few months ago, which is pretty positive, so it's not a bad thing. I'd like to read more by Bae Suah and then maybe revisit the collection. It's absolutely worth reading, and I'd be surprised if only one judge took a look at this book regardless of what that first judge made of it. Ever read any other works by Bae Suah, Sara?


message 29: by Eric (new)

Eric | 171 comments And Trevor, you're our (former?) insider here - think Chad Post will be dropping hints this year? Any guesses on your part as to what will be on the longlist?


message 30: by Sara (new)

Sara G | 125 comments Eric wrote: "Ever read any other works by Bae Suah, Sara? "

I have not. I am curious about how her style translates into a novel.


message 31: by Eric (new)

Eric | 171 comments Ditto. I'm hoping Recitation makes the list to sort of force my hand into reading that one.


message 32: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 2238 comments Mod
I have read Nowhere to be Found, A Greater Music as well as Recitation. The first of these, a novella, was my favourite. My review of Recitation includes the comment that in the longer novel form the narrative isn't so well controlled.


message 33: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (Mookse) | 1375 comments Mod
Eric wrote: "And Trevor, you're our (former?) insider here - think Chad Post will be dropping hints this year? Any guesses on your part as to what will be on the longlist?"

I hope so, but I don't know. I've been in touch about the longlist, and I know he has it and is preparing the press release, etc. I think he probably will!

I need to sit down myself and figure out what I'd put on the list. But here are some I desperately hope make it as they are my five favorites, which are favorites of this and any year:

-Compass
-Radiant Terminus
-My Heart Hemmed In
-Sundays in August
-For Two Thousand Years


message 34: by Eric (new)

Eric | 171 comments Paul - thanks for the Bae Suah info. I didn't realize how much longer Recitation is than the others. If that one doesn't make the longlist, I'll pick up one of the novellas later this year.

Trevor - thanks for the info! I think the first three on my above list are the ones that I'd be disappointed to not see longlisted. Radiant Terminus is one that I presume will be on the list, and I'll give it a look soon. I'm not really a science fiction fan, so I've been hesitant to pick it up. For Two Thousand Years looks interesting, and I've never read Modiano, so it may be about time. My Heart Hemmed In though, I could just not get into. I read Ladivine about two years ago, and really enjoyed that, but "Heart" just irked me for some reason. I very much seem to be in the minority there. To reiterate, I think this has been a great year for translated fiction, and I expect to see a really great list of books next week.


message 35: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 2238 comments Mod
If Human Acts isn't there I will demand an inquest for anti-MBI winner bias!

Although I note it doesn't make Eric's list.

Someone on twitter said they had heard from an inside source that Belladonna wasn't well received by the judges.

Looking forward to the longlist although its so long I find it difficult to engage until shortlist stage.

But the MBI list certainly supports the idea that this was a great year for translated fiction.


message 36: by Eric (new)

Eric | 171 comments Human Acts is her only book to not make the MBI list, right? Maybe that bodes well. I'm willing to make a small wager it's not on there though.

And I can see Belladonna not being well received. I liked it, but I can see where it wouldn't be universally appreciated.

And the list is WAY too long. This is actually my favorite stage in the process, try to figure out what books will make the longlist. My own little game I play is trying to guess the shortlist from scratch, because no way am I getting even close on all 25. I usually get about 5 of the shortlist correct at this point.


message 37: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 2238 comments Mod
My favourite game is the clues Chat gives to guess the shortlist. One year I proved though that there was no such list that fitted his clues. Turned out he had 'Mexican' and Spanish as separate languages.


message 38: by Eric (last edited Apr 07, 2018 04:44AM) (new)

Eric | 171 comments For the sake of posterity, my list o' ten. Five will be correct.

1. Compass - Mathias Enard (Charlotte Mandell)
2. The Invented Part - Rodrigo Fresan (Will Vanderhyden)
3. Belladonna - Dasa Drndic (Celia Hawkesworth)
4. Fever Dream - Samanta Schweblin (Megan McDowell)
5. Old Rendering Plant - Wolfgang Hilbig (Isabel Fargo Cole)
6. Iliac Crest - Cristina Rivera Garza (Sarah Booker)
7. Radiant Terminus - Antoine Volodine (Jeffrey Zuckerman)
8. For Two Thousand Years - Mihail Sebastian (Philip O Ceallaigh)
9. Bergeners - Tomas Espedal (James Anderson)
10. Harvest of Skulls - Abdourahman Waberi (Dominic Thomas)

I've read and endorsed the first six. I've yet to read any of the next four.


message 39: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 2238 comments Mod
Michael from the wonderful Complete Review who lurks here has suggested some names he is surprised we haven't discussed

Books I'm more and less surprised don't seem to be figuring much in the (too ltd !) @BTBA_ longlist speculation/buzz (e.g https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/... … & on Twitter):

- Ghachar Ghochar
- Horse Walks into a Bar
- 2084
- Not One Day
- Blumenberg
- Rapture
- Melville
- Ties



message 40: by WndyJW (new)

WndyJW | 480 comments I don't remember how I became aware of Ghachar Ghochar, but I'm glad I did. I loved that book.


message 41: by Eric (new)

Eric | 171 comments I read maybe 50 books total in a good year, so please take my suggestions for what they're worth!


message 42: by Sara (new)

Sara G | 125 comments I have read Ties but completely forgot about it, which I think says something. It's definitely long list material though.


message 43: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (Mookse) | 1375 comments Mod
On Twitter, the official BTBA account has started dropping some clues. That's going to be the main source this year, and I'll try to post them here as well:

First batch:

-10 languages, 16 countries, plus a state which no longer exists

-Two presses each have 3 books on the fiction list, and there are still 18 different presses

-Four books were written in a language that isn't the country of origin's most spoken language but all four are official languages of their country

-Four of the authors are dead


message 44: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 2238 comments Mod
The best clue has to be that none of the books was originally written in English as that immediately eliminates all but three percent of the otherwise eligible titles :-)


message 45: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 2238 comments Mod
The one clue we did manage to decode last year was the translator appearing multiple times that we correctly identified as Margaret Hull Costa and all of the books.


message 46: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (Mookse) | 1375 comments Mod
Okay, folks. If you post a list of 25 guesses, I am authorized to pester the BTBA folks to see how many are correct. The list has to include 25 books, so don't ask how many in the above lists are correct . . . that's cheating! No word on if you get it right will you get a prize, so don't count on that.


message 47: by Trevor (new)

Trevor (Mookse) | 1375 comments Mod
New clue (I'll keep these focused on the fiction list, though they are dropping clues for poetry as well):

-There are 16 men and 9 women on the fiction longlist


message 48: by Eric (new)

Eric | 171 comments I'm not playing the clues game, but here goes a list of 25.

Radiant Terminus - Volodine
Invented Part - Fresan
Old Rendering Plant - Hilbig
Compass - Enard
Belladonna - Drndic
Fever Dream - Schweblin
Iliac Crest - Rivera Garza
Bergeners - Espedal
For Two Thousand Years - Sebastia
Harvest of Skulls - Waberi
Knots - Oyehaug
Affections - Hasbun
Horse Walks into a Bar - Grossman
Not One Day - Garreta
Go, Went, Gone - Erpenbeck
Such Small Hands - Barba
World Goes On - Krasznahorkai
Vengeance Is Mine, All Other Pay Cash - Kurniawan
Year of the Comet - Lebedev
Notes of a Crocodile - Qui
Late Fame - Schnitzler
Things We Lost in the Fire - Enriquez
Book of the Dead - Shinobu
North Station - Bae
Golden Cockerel & Other Writings- Rulfo

Totally grasping at straws on many of those, but it's always fun to play. Thanks Trevor and the BTBA crew. And I most certainly didn't get that correct, but if anyone actually guesses it, they damn well deserve a prize!


message 49: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 2238 comments Mod
I always think the prizes are a little ungenerous as seem to need to get all the books right - has anyone ever won one? A prize (even of more modest, book of your choice say) for most books guessed would I suspect provoke more discussion and guesses.

And the judges will have to go some to top Eric's list.


message 50: by Paul (new)

Paul Fulcher (fulcherkim) | 2238 comments Mod
Confused by that last clue as one author plus at least one translator per book makes 50 people and 16+9 is 25. I guszz they forgot about the original authors as presumably a best translated book award would not have forgotten about the people who actually wrote all of the words we read ie the translators?


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