The annual competition hosted by the University of Rochester singled out Wiesław Myśliwski's novel as the finest example of world literature in translation published this year
Wiesław Myśliwski's Stone Upon Stone is set in the rural countryside of Poland, following a man committed to making his own tombstone and in the meantime, discovering his connection to his land, to God, his family and his community and to life itself. The book is full of touching scenes and wild carousing - the life of a simple man who has suffered and experiences that suffering in all its complexity. The New York Literary Supplement called the book,
A marvel of narrative seduction, a rare double masterpiece of storytelling and translation... Mysliwski's prose, replete with wit and an almost casual intensity, skips nimbly from one emotional register to the next, carrying dramatic force... He manages tone so finely, orchestrating a perfect continuity between the tragic and the comic and, ultimately, between life and death... In his translation Bill Johnston navigates Mysliwski's modulations with skill and the lightness of touch that is generally the face of profound labour.
Polish writer Magdalena Tulli joined Wiesław Myśliwski, together with translator Bill Johnson, on the shortlist for the 2012 edition of the University of Rochester's awards. The Best Translated Book Award is aimed at highlighting the best works of fiction and poetry from around the world translated into English over the past year
Magdalena Tulli's In Red is set during a mythical fourth partition of Poland, full haunting descriptions of towns and their inhabitants who live out their dramatic lives unnoticed by the rest of the world told through Tulli's lyrical language that gives the narrative a magical aura. The New Yorker wrote "Tulli strings together stories with compelling logic... Her evocation of a town where everything beautiful is tainted with death never feels far removed from reality."
Competition founder Chad Post of the Open Letter Press singled out Wiesław Myśliwski as his favourite contender, expressing a great deal of praise for the book on a local news programme. He also praised Bill Johnson, the book's translator (and incidentally also the translator for the second Polish book in the running - Magdalena Tulli's Red) as one of the premier translators in the United States today. The BTBA were announced on Friday, May 4 at 6:00pm at McNally Jackson Books as part of the PEN World Voices Festival. The award comes with a $5,000 cash prize for the author and translator of the winning book, sponsored by Amazon.com.
Central European authors made a strong showing in this year's competition, with two Polish writers and one Hungarian writer - Dezső Kosztolányi - making the shortlist. The finalists for the awards were announced on the 10th of April at the University of Rochester, presenting ten works of fiction and six books of poetry, cut down from the longlist announced earlier this year. "In previous years, there was much less consensus than we saw this year when choosing a list. That eleven very different readers have all found these books so exceptional speaks volumes about the incredible appeal of the shortlist - this is some of the best fiction of the year, in any language," said fiction committee member Jeff Waxman.
Other competing books on the fiction list included Jean Echenoz’s Lightning, translated from the French by Linda Coverdale and Enrique Vila-Matas’s Never Any End to Paris, translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean.
The Best Translated Book Awards were launched in 2007 as a way of bringing attention to great works of international literature. Original translation (no reprints or retranslations) published between December 2010 and December 2011 are eligible. The quality of the original book and the artistry of the English translation are the criteria used in determining the winning titles. This year’s fiction judges are: Monica Carter (Salonica), Gwendolyn Dawson (Literary License), Scott Esposito (Conversational Reading and Center for the Art of Translation), Susan Harris (Words Without Borders), Annie Janusch (Translation Review), Matthew Jakubowski (writer & critic), Brandon Kennedy (bookseller/cataloger), Bill Marx (PRI’s The World: World Books), Edward Nawotka (Publishing Perspectives), Michael Orthofer (Complete Review), and Jeff Waxman (Seminary Co-op and University of Chicago Press).
For a full list of winners, see: www.rochester.edu
Editor: Agnieszka Le Nart
Source: Three Percent/University of Rochester