2018 National Book Awards: See The Finalists for Translated Literature!

2018 national book awards finalists translated literature

The twenty-five Finalists for the 2018 National Book Awards for Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, Translated Literature, and Young People’s Literature (YPL) were announced today with Buzzfeed News’s AM To DM.

This year’s longlistees for the coveted translated literature prize included Négar Djavadi, Roque Larraquy, Dunya Mikhail, Perumal Murugan, Hanne Ørstavik, Gunnhild Øyehaug, Domenico Starnone, Yoko Tawada, Olga Tokarczuk, and Tatyana Tolstaya.

Now, the longlist has been narrowed to five finalists! See them below.

Each finalist will give a reading of their work at The New School in New York City on November 13. Winners will be announced the following day.

Any title on this list can be purchased by clicking its cover.


Négar Djavadi, Disoriental

Translated by Tina Kover

Kimiâ Sadr fled Iran at the age of ten in the company of her mother and sisters to join her father in France. Now twenty-five and facing the future she has built for herself as well as the prospect of a new generation, Kimiâ is inundated by her own memories and the stories of her ancestors, which come to her in unstoppable, uncontainable waves. In the waiting room of a Parisian fertility clinic, generations of flamboyant Sadrs return to her, including her formidable great-grandfather Montazemolmolk, with his harem of fifty-two wives, and her parents, Darius and Sara, stalwart opponents of each regime that befalls them.

In this high-spirited, kaleidoscopic story, key moments of Iranian history, politics, and culture punctuate stories of family drama and triumph. Yet it is Kimiâ herself––punk-rock aficionado, storyteller extraordinaire, a Scheherazade of our time, and above all a modern woman divided between family traditions and her own “disorientalization”––who forms the heart of this bestselling and beloved novel.

Hanne Ørstavik, Love

Translated by Martin Aitken

Love is the story of a single mother, Vibeke, and her son Jon, who have just moved to a remote small town in the north of Norway. It’s the day before Jon’s birthday, but with concerns of her own, Vibeke has forgotten this. With a man on her mind, she ventures to the local library while Jon goes out to sell lottery tickets for his sports club. From here on we follow the two individuals on their separate journeys through a cold winter’s night, their experiences nevertheless linked in seamless narrative. The reader is privy to each character’s intimate thoughts as suspense builds and tragedy looms. Translator Martin Aitken has done a beautiful job of capturing the raw power, rhythms, and electricity of Ørstavik’s prose.

Domenico Starnone, Trick

Translated by Jhumpa Lahiri

Imagine a duel. A face-off between a man and a boy.

The same blood runs through their veins. One, Daniele Mallarico, is a successful illustrator at the peak of his career. The other, Mario, is his four-year-old grandson who has barely learned to talk but has a few tricks up his loose-fitting sleeves all the same. The older combatant has lived for years in almost complete solitude. The younger one has been dumped with a grandfather he barely knows for 72 hours.

Starnone’s sharp novella unfolds within the four walls (and a balcony!) of the apartment where the grandfather grew up, now the home of his daughter and her family, where the rage of an aging man meets optimism incarnate in the shape of a four-year-old child.

Lurking, ever present in the conflict, is the memory of Naples, a wily, violent, and passionate city where the old man spent his youth and whose influence is not easily shaken.

Yoko Tawada, The Emissary

Translated by Margaret Mitsutani

Japan, after suffering from a massive irreparable disaster, cuts itself off from the world. Children are so weak they can barely stand or walk: the only people with any get-go are the elderly. Mumei lives with his grandfather Yoshiro, who worries about him constantly. They carry on a day-to-day routine in what could be viewed as a post-Fukushima time, with all the children born ancient—frail and gray-haired, yet incredibly compassionate and wise. Mumei may be enfeebled and feverish, but he is a beacon of hope, full of wit and free of self-pity and pessimism. Yoshiro concentrates on nourishing Mumei, a strangely wonderful boy who offers “the beauty of the time that is yet to come.”

Olga Tokarczuk, Flights

Translated by Jennifer Croft

A seventeenth-century Dutch anatomist discovers the Achilles tendon by dissecting his own amputated leg. Chopin’s heart is carried back to Warsaw in secret by his adoring sister. A woman must return to her native Poland in order to poison her terminally ill high school sweetheart, and a young man slowly descends into madness when his wife and child mysteriously vanish during a vacation and just as suddenly reappear. Through these brilliantly imagined characters and stories, interwoven with haunting, playful, and revelatory meditations, Flights explores what it means to be a traveler, a wanderer, a body in motion not only through space but through time. Where are you from? Where are you coming in from? Where are you going? we call to the traveler. Enchanting, unsettling, and wholly original, Flights is a master storyteller’s answer.

Remarks on the finalists, courtesy of the National Book Foundation:

Négar Djavadi’s debut novel Disoriental, translated from the French by Tina Kover, follows a young Iranian woman living in Paris, divided between the life she’s made for herself and a rich family history that spans many generations in Iran. Hanne Ørstavik’s short novel, Love, translated from the Norwegian by Martin Aitken, takes place in a remote town in the north of Norway, following a mother and young son separately navigating their way through a single night, disconnected and headed for tragedy. In Domenico Starnone’s Trick, translated from the Italian by National Book Award Finalist and Pulitzer Prize winner Jhumpa Lahiri, an aging illustrator watches over his four-year-old grandson in an apartment in Naples, forced to confront his own troubled past in the face of the child’s youth and innocence. In Yoko Tawada’s The Emissary, translated from Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani, a young boy and his great-grandfather live fully entwined lives in Japan following a fictional, unnamed disaster, their dispositions reflecting and juxtaposing one another. Translated from Polish, Olga Tokarczuk’s Flights, which won Tokarczuk and translator Jennifer Croft the Man Booker International Prize earlier this year, weaves together a bevy of narratives and characters, observed by a single narrator, as they wander through space and time, moving towards or away from the things they seek.

Paris Close
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