Khalifa’s ‘Death Is Hard Work,’ Tr. Price, Makes National Book Award Longlist

Today, The New Yorker announced the ten-book longlist for the “Translated Literature” category of the 2019 National Book Award:

This is only the second year the National Book Award is set to have a category for translated literature. One author on the 2019 longlist — Olga Tokarczuk — was also on last year’s shortlist, for her Flights, translated by Jennifer Croft.

Surprisingly, the ten titles on the 2019 longlist come from authors writing in ten different languages. The list is also genre-diverse. Although it’s heavily weighted toward novels (seven), there are also two memoirs and a collection of essays.

The Arabic novel that makes the list — Khaled Khalifa’s Death is Hard Workin Leri Price’s compelling translation — is a strong contender for the prize. The novel, which we discussed in Episode 29 of Bulaq, centers on a dark family road trip through contemporary Syria, to bury a father’s body, and has many small, beautiful observations of human life and family dynamics.

The full list of ten:

Naja Marie Aidt’s When Death Takes Something from You Give It Back: Carl’s Book, translated by Denise Newman (Coffee House Press)

Eliane Brum’s The Collector of Leftover Souls: Field Notes on Brazil’s Everyday Insurrections, translated by Diane Grosklaus Whitty (Graywolf Press)

Nona Fernández’s Space Invaders, translated by Natasha Wimmer (Graywolf Press)

Vigdis Hjorth’s Will and Testament, translated by Charlotte Barslund (Verso Fiction / Verso Books)

Khaled Khalifa’s Death is Hard Work, translated by Leri Price (Farrar, Straus & Giroux / Macmillan Publishers)

László Krasznahorkai’s Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming, translated by Ottilie Mulzet (New Directions)

Scholastique Mukasonga’s The Barefoot Woman, translated by Jordan Stump (Archipelago Books)

Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police, translated by Stephen Snyder (Pantheon Books / Penguin Random House)

Pajtim Statovci’s Crossing, translated by David Hackston (Pantheon Books / Penguin Random House)

Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead, translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones (Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House)

The 2019 judges for this category are n+1 editor Keith Gessen, translator Elisabeth Jaquette, novelist Katie Kitamura, novelist Idra Novey, and publisher-bookseller Shuchi Saraswat.

The shortlist is set to be announced next month, and the winner in November.


Syrian Novelist Khaled Khalifa: ‘I Have Always Wondered About the Ability of Some Writers To Remain Silent’

Khaled Khalifa’s ‘Living in a Void’

A True Loss in Translation: The Edited English Version of Khaled Khalifa’s ‘In Praise of Hatred’

2013 Naguib Mahfouz Medal to Khaled Khalifa’s ‘No Knives in the Kitchens of This City’

Syrian Novelist Khaled Khalifa: ‘What Is Left of the City After All That?’