Idle Speculation About the BTBA 2014

Well, since I see that Michael Orthofer has begun speculating about the Best Translated Book Award for 2014, I guess I’ll jump in. Most of these I haven’t read yet, so this is really speculative, but it’s at least well-informed speculation. This list makes no pretense at comprehensiveness, so if I’ve left off your favorite author, book, press, etc, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything.

I will say that insofar as I’m aware of the contenders for 2014, I don’t see any obvious frontrunners. That wasn’t exactly the case last year, where Seiobo There Below was pretty clearly the odds-on favorite from the beginning.

Trieste by Dasa Drndic (January 14, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

I’ve been hearing remarkable things. Seems like the sort of title that will at least hit the longlist.

The Corpse Exhibition: And Other Stories of Iraq by Hassan Blasim (January 28, Penguin Books)

Assuming there are no eligibility issues here (and that Penguin manages to get all the judges a copy), I see this as a definite longlist contender.

Severina by Rodrigo Rey Rosa (February 25, Yale University Press Margellos World Republic of Letters)

Not sure about this one. I love me some Rey Rosa, but I thought The African Shore was far superior.

The Restless Supermarket by Ivan Vladislavic (April 1, And Other Stories)

In my opinion Vladislavic is always a contender.

Oops, not translated.

Letters from a Seducer by Hilda Hilst (February 4, Nightboat) and With My Dog Eyes by Hilda Hilst (April 8, Melville House)

Hilst’s reputation seems to be climbing really fast around these parts. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her hit the longlist.

Sidewalks by Valeria Luiselli (May 13, Coffee House Press)

This one comes with an amazing rave from Enrique Vila-Matas, and Luiselli has been an author of interest for a while.

Oops, not fiction.

My Struggle Book 3 by Karl Ove Knausgaard (May 27, Archipelago Books)

You can’t discount Knausgaard, and this is a pretty good book, but there does seem to be a little Knausgaard-fatigue among the BTBA jury.

Zama by Antonio Di Benedetto (June 10, NYRB Classics)

I believe this is the first-ever translation of Zama. If it’s eligible, I can’t imagine it wouldn’t hit the longlist, and, quite possibly, the shortlist.

La Grande by Juan Jose Saer (June 17, Open Letter Books)

Saer’s a singular talent, and this is one of his major opuses. Definite shortlist potential.

Works by Edouard Levé (July 1, Dalkey Archive Press)

For some reason Michael Orthofer thinks there are eligibility issues with this book (?). Can’t imagine it would miss the longlist, unless we have a very conceptual-literature-unfriendly jury.

The Last Lover by Can Xue (July 29, Yale University Press Margellos World Republic of Letters)

Can Xue is spoken of highly by people I thinking highly of, so surely this book must be a contender.

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami (August 12, Knopf)

Not sure about this one. Murakami is Murakami, but his recent books have been very, very weak. Though the BTBA did longlist a rather mediocre Javier Marías novel for 2013, so maybe the name alone will propel him.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante (September 2, Europa Editions)

Ferrante was one of the big discoveries for the BTBA judges this year, and I know the next novel in her series is a book of much interest.

Paris by Marcos Giralt Torrente (???, Hispabooks)

Giralt is a serious talent, and this is supposed to be a major novel of his. Though it does raise some eyebrows that this book has (supposedly) a July release date but still isn’t available on Amazon, nor with much information at the publisher’s website.

A Little Lumpen Novelita by Roberto Bolaño (September 16, New Directions)

Well, it’s Bolaño, but this is supposed to be his weakest book.

The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck (November 11, New Directions)

Don’t know much about this one, but Erpenbeck is a talent, and she did hit the longlist a few years back.

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You don’t specify that you’re only speculating about the fiction categories. More importantly, why don’t you include the names of translators here?


And even though the books will be from 2014 it will be BTBA 2015.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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