And 25 becomes 10…here are your finalists for the 2014 Best Translated Book Award!
The African Shore
By Rodrigo Rey Rosa
Translated from the Spanish by Jeffrey Gray
Yale University Press
In the vein of the writings of Paul Bowles, Paul Theroux, and V. S. Naipaul, The African Shore marks a major new installment in the genre of dystopic travel fiction. Rodrigo Rey Rosa, prominent in today’s Guatemalan literary world and an author of growing international reputation, presents a tale of alienation, misrecognition, and intrigue set in and around Tangier. He weaves a double narrative involving a Colombian tourist pleasurably stranded in Morocco and a young shepherd who dreams of migrating to Spain and of “riches to come.” At the center of their tale is an owl both treasured and coveted.
The author addresses the anxiety, distrust, and potential for violence that characterize the border of all borders: the strait that divides Africa and Europe, where the waters of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic meet. His often-remarked prose style, at once rich and spare, endows his work with remarkable elegance. Rey Rosa generates a powerful reality within his imagined world, and he maintains a narrative tension to the haunting conclusion, raising small and large questions that linger in the reader’s mind long after the final page. (from the publisher)
A True Novel
By Minae Mizumura
Translated from the Japanese by Juliet Winters Carpenter
A True Novel begins in New York in the 1960s, where we meet Taro, a relentlessly ambitious Japanese immigrant trying to make his fortune. Flashbacks and multilayered stories reveal his life: an impoverished upbringing as an orphan, his eventual rise to wealth and success—despite racial and class prejudice—and an obsession with a girl from an affluent family that has haunted him all his life. A True Novel then widens into an examination of Japan’s westernization and the emergence of a middle class.
The winner of Japan’s prestigious Yomiuri Literature Prize, Mizumura has written a beautiful novel, with love at its core, that reveals, above all, the power of storytelling. (from the publisher)
My Struggle: Book Two / A Man in Love
By Karl Ove Knausgaard
Translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett
Book Two of the six-volume literary masterwork My Struggle flows with the same raw energy and candor that ignited the series’ unprecedented bestselling run in Scandinavia, a virulent controversy, and an avalanche of literary awards. Knausgaard breaks down lived experience into its elementary particles, revealing the wounds and epiphanies of a truly examined life. Walking away from everything he knows in Bergen, Karl Ove finds himself in Stockholm, where he waits for the next stretch of the road to reveal itself. He strikes up a deep friendship with another exiled Norwegian, a boxing fanatic and intellectual named Geir. He reconnects with Linda, a vibrant poet who had captivated him at a writers’ workshop years earlier, and the shape of his world changes. Book Two exposes the inner landscape of a man falling in love and the fraught joys and impossible predicaments he faces as a new father. We look on as he watches his life unfold. Love, rage, and beauty flood these pages. Knausgaard writes with exhilarating honesty and insight about the collection of moments that make up a life – the life of someone with an irrepressible need to write, of someone for whom art and the natural world are physical needs, of someone for whom death is always standing in the corner, of someone who craves solitude and love from the depths of his being. (from the publisher)
Seiobo There Below
By László Krasznahorkai
Translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet
Seiobo — a Japanese goddess — has a peach tree in her garden that blossoms once every three thousand years: its fruit brings immortality. In Seiobo There Below, we see her returning again and again to mortal realms, searching for a glimpse of perfection. Beauty, in Krasznahorkai’s new novel, reflects, however fleetingly, the sacred — even if we are mostly unable to bear it. Seiobo shows us an ancient Buddha being restored; Perugino managing his workshop; a Japanese Noh actor rehearsing; a fanatic of Baroque music lecturing a handful of old villagers; tourists intruding into the rituals of Japan’s most sacred shrine; a heron hunting.… Over these scenes and more — structured by the Fibonacci sequence — Seiobo hovers, watching it all. (from the publisher)
By Mircea Cărtărescu
Translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter
Part visceral dream-memoir, part fictive journey through a hallucinatory Bucharest, Mircea Cărtărescu’s Blinding was one of the most widely heralded literary sensations in contemporary Romania, and a bestseller from the day of its release. Riddled with hidden passageways, mesmerizing tapestries, and whispering butterflies, Blinding takes us on a mystical trip into the protagonist’s childhood, his memories of hospitalization as a teenager, the prehistory of his family, a traveling circus, Secret police, zombie armies, American fighter pilots, the underground jazz scene of New Orleans, and the installation of the communist regime. This kaleidoscopic world is both eerily familiar and profoundly new. Readers of Blinding will emerge from this strange pilgrimage shaken, and entirely transformed. (from the publisher)
Horses of God
By Mahi Binebine
Translated from the French by Lulu Norman
On May 16, 2003, fourteen suicide bombers launched a series of attacks throughout Casablanca. It was the deadliest attack in Morocco’s history. The bombers came from the shantytowns of Sidi Moumen, a poor suburb on the edge of a dump whose impoverished residents rarely if ever set foot in the cosmopolitan city at their doorstep. Mahi Binebine’s novel Horses of God follows four childhood friends growing up in Sidi Moumen as they make the life-changing decisions that will lead them to become Islamist martyrs.
The seeds of fundamentalist martyrdom are sown in the dirt-poor lives of Yachine, Nabil, Fuad, and Ali, all raised in Sidi Moumen. The boys’ soccer team, The Stars of Sidi Moumen, is their main escape from the poverty, violence, and absence of hope that pervade their lives. When Yachine’s older brother Hamid falls under the spell of fundamentalist leader Abu Zoubeir, the attraction of a religion that offers discipline, purpose, and guidance to young men who have none of these things becomes too seductive to ignore.
Narrated by Yachine from the afterlife, Horses of God portrays the sweet innocence of childhood and friendship as well as the challenges facing those with few opportunities for a better life. Binebine navigates the controversial situation with compassion, creating empathy for the boys, who believe they have no choice but to follow the path offered them. (from the publisher)
The Story of a New Name
By Elena Ferrante
Translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein
The second book, following 2012’s acclaimed My Brilliant Friend, featuring the two friends Lila and Elena. The two protagonists are now in their twenties. Marriage appears to have imprisoned Lila. Meanwhile, Elena continues her journey of self-discovery. The two young women share a complex and evolving bond that brings them close at times, and drives them apart at others. Each vacillates between hurtful disregard and profound love for the other. With this complicated and meticulously portrayed friendship at the center of their emotional lives, the two girls mature into women, paying the sometimes cruel price that this passage exacts. (from the publisher)
The Forbidden Kingdom
By Jan Jacob Slauerhoff
Translated from the Dutch by Paul Vincent
A classic of early modernism The Forbidden Kingdom (Het Verboden Rijk) is the masterwork of Jan Jacob Slauerhoff – a romantic tale of adventure, seafaring and colonialism, told through an experimental narrative.
An intoxicating mix of time travel and adventure, The Forbidden Kingdom revolves around the Portuguese imperial outpost of Macao in China. Two men journey to the colony: the exiled sixteenth-century poet Luis de Camoes, author of The Lusiads, and a twentieth-century ship’s wireless operator. With their overlapping stories Slauerhoff draws his reader into a dazzling world of exoticism, betrayal and exile, where past and present merge and the possibility of death is never far away. (from the publisher)
By Arnon Grunberg
Translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett
Open Letter Books
Jörgen Hofmeester once had it all: a beautiful wife, a nice house with a garden in an upperclass neighborhood in Amsterdam, a respectable job as an editor, two lovely daughters named Ibi and Tirza, and a large amount of money in a Swiss bank account. But during the preparations for Tirza’s graduation party, we come to know what he has lost. His wife has left him; Ibi is starting a bed and breakfast in France, an idea which he opposed; the director of the publishing house has fired him; and his savings have vanished in the wake of 9/11.
But Hofmeester still has Tirza, until she introduces him to her new boyfriend, Choukri—who bears a disturbing resemblance to Mohammed Atta—and they announce their plan to spend several months in Africa. A heartrending and masterful story of a man seeking redemption, Tirza marks a high point in Grunberg’s still-developing oeuvre. (from the publisher)
Leg over Leg: Volume One
By Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq
Translated from the Arabic by Humphrey Davies
Leg over Leg recounts the life, from birth to middle age, of ‘the Fariyaq,’ alter ego of Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, a pivotal figure in the intellectual and literary history of the modern Arab world. The always edifying and often hilarious adventures of the Fariyaq, as he moves from his native Lebanon to Egypt, Malta, Tunis, England and France, provide the author with grist for wide-ranging discussions of the intellectual and social issues of his time, including the ignorance and corruption of the Lebanese religious and secular establishments, freedom of conscience, women’s rights, sexual relationships between men and women, the manners and customs of Europeans and Middle Easterners, and the differences between contemporary European and Arabic literatures. Al-Shidyaq also celebrates the genius and beauty of the classical Arabic language.
Akin to Sterne and Rabelais in his satirical outlook and technical inventiveness, al-Shidyaq produced in Leg Over Leg a work that is unique and unclassifiable. It was initially widely condemned for its attacks on authority, its religious skepticism, and its “obscenity,” and later editions were often abridged. This is the first English translation of the work and reproduces the original Arabic text, published under the author’s supervision in 1855. (from the publisher)
Have you read any of the ten titles on the 2014 Best Translated Book Award shortlist? Who do you think will take home the prize? Comment below and let us know your thoughts.