The fiction and poetry longlists for the 2017 Best Translated Book Awards (BTBAs) were released yesterday, and Elisabeth Jaquette and Mona Kareem were honored, respectively, for their translations of Basma Abdel Aziz’s The Queue and Ashraf Fayadh’s Instructions Within:
The BTBAs are one of three major book-translation prizes in the US. The other two are the PEN Translation prize, announced yesterday, and the American Literary Translation Association’s National Translation Award.
The BTBAs put a whopping 35 titles on their two 2017 longlists: twenty-five on the fiction longlist and ten for poetry. The two titles on the list translated from the Arabic are Egyptian novelist Basma Abdel Aziz’s The Queue and Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh’s Instructions Within. Moroccan poet and memoirist Abdellatif Laâbi’s In Praise of Defeat, translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith, also made the poetry longlist.
As could be expected from what’s available in English translation, most of the titles are translated from European languages: 12 from the Spanish, 5 from the French, 4 from German. Yet, in addition to the two Arabic titles, there are also books translated from Japanese, Korean, and Wolof (Boubacar Boris Diop’s Doomi Golo.)
According to The Millions, the pool of eligible titles topped 600 for this year’s award. For the two longlists, the 14 judges (nine in fiction, five in poetry) “considered works written by authors from 87 countries in 54 different languages, and published in English by 179 distinct presses.”
The fact that a number of worthy titles — like Rabee Jaber’s Confessions, translated by Kareem James Abu Zaid; Hilal Chouman’s Limbo Beirut, translated by Anna Ziajka-Stanton; Lina Meruane’s Seeing Red, translated by Megan McDowell; and Ghassan Zaqtan’s Describing the Past, translated by Samuel Wilders — have escaped attention is certainly understandable, with such an immense pool of possibilities.
As in past years, Three Percent will be running “Why This Book Should Win the BTBA” posts for each of the 35 titles. The announcement of finalists will come, they promise, on April 18.