The English translations of Tirza by Arnon Grunberg (tr. Sam Garrett for Open Letter Books) and The Forbidden Kingdom by Jan Jacob Slauerhoff (orig. Het verboden rijk, tr. Paul Vincent for Pushkin) have reached the finals of the 2014 Best Translated Book Awards in Fiction.
This increasingly prestigious award is given annually for, as the name suggests, the best translated fiction published in book form in the United States over the past year.
The prize is an initiative of Chad Post, whose blog Three Percent draws attention to the marginal position of international literature in the English-language book market.
Tirza was greeted with some apprehension by bookseller Casey O’Neil of Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle, but that attitude was soon replaced by enthusiasm:
‘So I should start by admitting that I was totally unprepared for Tirza. To be honest, I would be scared to meet the person who is prepared for it. Two paragraphs in, I understood the caliber of writer I was dealing with. By the second page I had already laughed out loud. And from then on I was hopelessly immersed in the pathetic, compelling world of Jörgen Hofmeester.’
Paul Vincent’s translation of The Forbidden Kingdom also met with a great deal of praise. In the words of Stephen Sparks of Green Apple Books:
‘Paul Vincent’s translation captures the odd beauty of Slauerhoff’s singular novel, rich in atmosphere and incident. It’s the kind of book many of us on the BTBA panel live for: an undisputed classic that, after an inexplicably long time, makes its way into English.’
Grunberg and Slauerhoff find themselves in the good company of writers including Elena Ferrante and Karl Ove Knausgaard. The complete list can be found on the Three Percent-website. The winners of the 2014 Best Translated Book Awards will be announced on 28 April.