The booker longlist is out but does it matter when most of the best books are in translation !


Well my mind has been elsewhere and it isn’t to today I’ve fully come round to thinking about the booker longlist and what last years changes meant .I did say at the time the Booker prize missed a trick by not only opening it too all books written in English but they should have included all books translated into English .That would opened a global prize ,but maybe also helped get books into translation more into the limelight ,For since the list has come out there has been many newspaper articles and blog posts written about the long list ,for me I agree with Naomi and a few others ,the list is very male and very white,as some people feared the Commonwealth seems to have suffered with the Americans coming into the prize .Now as Susan pointed out in her recent piece for the blog the time is right to get a prize or more notice for books in translation .This week is a prime example I escaped into books to find solace in fiction and thus read two of the best books I have read in the last few months Bilbao – New York – Bilbao by Kirmin Uribe a Spanish lit prize-winning novel by a basque writer ,thinking on a flight to New York about the novel he is writing about his families past in fishing , that is  forthcoming from Seren Books .The other book is Zone by Mathias Enard ,now this book came out in the US last year and is one of the first two books from the new UK publisher Fitzcarldo editions ,this book strangely again about a trip we follow a French intelligence officer on a rail trip from Milan to Rome ,it is one of those sprawling books that is hard to pin down ,but drags you into another world .Now I had two thoughts about these books ,firstly would they even get a publisher if written in English as they break the mould of what is viewed as a novel ,recent case have shown books that maybe play with the novel as form or are maybe seen as to sprawling struggle to get publishers the two examples that spring to mind are A naked singularity by Sregio de Le Pava ,that did a tour of publishers to only first come out a s a self published book ,then people saw its beauty and both publishers in the US and the UK brought it out ,like wise the prize-winning A girl is a half-formed thing had a lot of rejections before it was picked up by a new small imprint and as you all know went on to win and be shortlisted for a number of prizes .I feel what translation would have brought if include in the book is challenging fiction books that break the creative writing stranglehold and market forces that  lead fiction published  in English these days .So how are we going to get the public to get books in translation a new prize is an idea ,a European booker ? a way to generate interest and like the booker maybe for once get the one or two book lit readers instead of the booker winner or shortlisted book that they have seen in waterstones or an independent bookshop for their  two weeks in say Tuscany ,and pick a book in translation because they know it has been a prize book ! One can dream but we in translation circles have to try new ways and stop scratching are goatees and thinking how clever it all is and break down the walls .SO the booker missed the chance ,we should make our own chance and make people sit up and see what they are missing .

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tony
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 13:41:47

    Yes, I tweeted my lack of interest earlier in the week 😉 Another translated literature prize would be good, perhaps a female writer prize – to coincide with Women in Translation Month, perhaps 😉


  2. A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 14:08:26

    I think this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist was a lot more inspiring than the Man Booker Prize list – Strange Weather in Tokyo is one of my favourite books from this year so far. However, I do enjoy the controversy of the Booker and the debate that it brings!


  3. Heather
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 14:24:20

    I looked up each of the novels on the Booker longlist and not a one of them appealed to me. Some African or Asian fiction would have varied the options.


  4. Guy Savage
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 14:29:30

    I don’t really care about book prize contests as I think they’re loaded, politically, and besides if there’s ever one book that I thought was fantastic on the list, it always seems to lose. So I prefer Booker Losers.


  5. kaggsysbookishramblings
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 14:32:54

    I agree so much Stu – what I like about translated fiction is precisely that it *doesn’t* fit the mould, that it can be as rambling or different as it likes. Most fiction published in English today has to fit into the current best-selling genre or it doesn’t have a chance. I’m afraid the Booker list does nothing for me…… 😦


  6. Athira
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 14:33:52

    I definitely think that this year’s Booker list is a bit boring. I feel there are plenty of prizes out there for American books and there was no need to consider them for this award as well. I look forward to all the diverse books in the Booker longlist every year and it has been a bit disappointing mix this time.


  7. Bellezza
    Jul 27, 2014 @ 16:46:47

    I agree with Guy, Book Losers are generally my favorite as well.

    (I’ve rarely been as disappointed as I was with the IFFP winner this May. Loved reading with you and the others, thought the winner was crap.)


  8. naomifrisby
    Jul 28, 2014 @ 07:28:26

    Great piece, Stu and you’re absolutely right, if the Booker’s a global prize make it truly global.

    (Thanks for the mention.)


  9. Lisa Hill
    Jul 28, 2014 @ 08:44:08

    This post is why I love your blog, Stu – you are absolutely right.


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July 2014


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