The National Book Foundation just announced the 10 books on the longlist for the
2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature, a new category that celebrates works-in-translation as an essential part of national literature. The five finalists for the award will be announced on October 10, and the winners will be honored at a ceremony on Nov. 14 in New York City.
Translation is in itself an art of its own. Translating a piece of literature is about far more than just switching from one language to another—it's about carrying over a writer's style, gracefully conveying cultural references, and ensuring that the heart of the work continues to beat. I, for one, am so excited to see the hard work of these translators being honored by this important award.
These books will take you all over the world; they were originally written in French, Spanish, Arabic, Tamil, Norwegian, Italian, Japanese, Polish, and Russian. The list includes eight novels, one story collection, and one work of nonfiction. You have just enough time to read a few (or all!) of these incredible works before the finalists and winners are announced.
Here is the longlist for the 2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature:
'Disoriental' by Négar Djavadi, translated by Tina Kover
Translated from French: This debut novel has already won a number of impressive international awards, including the Prix du Style, Prix de la Porte Dorée, Lire Best Debut Novel, and Prix du Roman News. Disoriental follows a young Iranian woman, torn between her past and present. As she sits in the waiting room of a fertility clinic, she loses herself in memories and stories as generations of her family return to her. Click here to buy.
'Comemadre' by Roque Larraquy, translated by Heather Cleary
Translated from Spanish: "How far are we willing to go...in pursuit of transcendence?" asks this remarkable novel. In 1907 on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, a doctor's experiments lead him to investigate the threshold between life and death. One hundred years later, an artist goes to extremes to turn herself into an art object. Click here to buy.
'The Beekeeper: Rescuing the Stolen Women of Iraq' by Dunya Mikhail, translated by Dunya Mikhail and Max Weiss
Translated from Arabic: In this work of nonfiction, Dunya Mikhail tells the stories of women who have escaped ISIS. These women have been sexually abused, psychologically tortured, and forced to manufacture weapons. Within these stories is the beekeeper, who has used his network and knowledge of the local terrain to bring these women to safety. Click here to buy.
'One Part Woman' by Perumal Murugan, translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan
Translated from Tamil: This book has sold over 100,000 copies in India and become a cult phenomenon. Set in South India during the British colonial period, One Part Woman tells the story of Kali and Ponn, a couple struggling to conceive. They develop a radical plan to have a baby — and it involves the annual chariot festival, a celebration of the god Maadhorubaagan, who is one part woman, one part man. On the 18th night of the festival, the rules of marriage are put on hold, and consensual sex between any man and woman is permitted. But will their solution ultimately drive the couple apart? Click here to buy.
'Love' by Hanne Ørstavik, translated by Martin Aitken
Translated from Norwegian: In Love, Vibeke and her son Jon have just moved to a small town in the north of Norway. It's the day before Jon's birthday, and a carnival has come to town. But as the two characters move throughout the day, a sense of uneasiness grows. Click here to buy.
'Wait, Blink: A Perfect Picture of Inner Life' by Gunnhild Øyehaug, translated by Kari Dickson
Translated from Norwegian: In this playful novel, readers follow a cast of fascinating characters: Sigrid is a young literature student trying to find her voice who falls in love with an older, established author; Trine is a reluctant mother trying to make it as a performance artist; and Linnea is an aspiring movie director, scouting locations for a film she will never make. As their stories intertwine, Wait, Blink delivers an examination of the frightening and joyous aspects of being alive. Click here to buy.
'Trick' by Domenico Starnone, translated by Jhumpa Lahiri
Translated from Italian: In this sharp novella, a 72-year-old illustrator faces off against his four-year-old grandson. Even though the universe of this story may be confined to their living room, beneath the surface is a brewing storm. Click here to buy.
'The Emissary' by Yoko Tawada, translated by Margaret Mitsutani
Translated from Japanese: In this joyous dystopian novel (not a typo!), Japan cuts itself off from the rest of the world in the wake of a tragedy. In a world in which children are born gray-haired, frail, and wise, Mumei lives with his grandfather, and slowly emerges as a beacon of hope in the land. Click here to buy.
'Flights' by Olga Tokarczuk, translated by Jennifer Croft
Translated from Polish: This short story collection has already won the Man Booker International Prize. In Flights, you'll find stories that explore "what it means to be a traveler, a wanderer, a body in motion not only through space but through time." Click here to buy.
'Aetherial Worlds' by Tatyana Tolstaya, translated by Anya Migdal
Translated from Russian: The 18 stories in this collection will lead you into a series of miraculous other worlds. A woman's father appears in her dreams with intel on the afterlife. A man falls in love with a marble statue. A child sees Heaven through a stained-glass window. Each one of these stories is dazzling in its own unique way. Click here to buy.