PEN American Prizes Shortlist

The PEN American Center has always been excellent at highlighting great international writing, and the shortlists for their poetry and fiction translation awards, announced today, are no exception. It’s tough to even guess at frontrunners, since the lists are so diverse and interesting, and it’s nice that PEN announces these full shortlists, since taking a look at all of these books is a good opportunity to see what’s happening in translated literature in each of these genres.

Even just the list of presses represented in the poetry shortlist, judged by the Korean translator and poet Don Mee Choi is a testament to the vitality of translation in the independent and nonprofit publishing scene. Every single one of these presses is committed to publishing work in translation, and it’s especially refreshing on an awards shortlist to see ‘newer’ ones like Action Books alongside long-time stalwarts of translation like BOA Editions and Yale University Press:

Spit Temple by Cecilia Vicuña (Ugly Duckling Presse), Rosa Alcalá

Diadem by Marosa di Giorgio (BOA Editions), Adam Giannelli

Tales of a Severed Head by Rachida Madani (Yale University Press), Marilyn Hacker

The Smoke of Distant Fires by Eduardo Chirinos (Open Letter Books), G. J. Racz

Almost 1 Book/Almost 1 Life by Elfriede Czurda (Burning Deck), Rosmarie Waldrop

The Shock of the Lenders and Other Poems by Jorge Santiago Perednik (Action Books), Molly Weigel

For the fiction list, I’m a little less familiar with all of the books, but even that’s nice to see, at least if only here, since it feels like perhaps we’re moving beyond the paradigm where one or two fiction titles in translation a year get attention while so much other worthy work doesn’t get noticed. Of this list I’m partial to the Bilge Karasu, which the Center did an event for last fall and is really a beautiful book, or the Clarice Lispector (although it must have been tough to pick from the four Lispector’s that came out last year):

A Long Day’s Evening by Bilge Karasu (City Lights Books), Aron Aji and Fred Stark

Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector (New Directions), Alison Entrekin

Down the Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), Rosalind Harvey

The Cardboard House by Martín Adán (New Directions), Katherine Silver

The Island of Second Sight by Albert Vigoleis Thelen (Overlook Press), Donald O. White

Check out all the shortlists at The PEN site


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