A couple of months ago I posted about the longlist for the Lettre Ulysses Award, a prize that is given to the best book-length reporting. They have since announced the winner and runners-up, and this year the award went to The People on the Street: A Writer’s View of Israel by Linda Grant. Her book is a ground level view of life in Israel, placing it in counterpoint to the scads of books that look at the region from 35,000 feet. In an excerpt, we read about the reaction on the street in Tel Aviv when people found out that Saddam had been captured.
The IMPAC Award shortlist was announced last night. The IMPAC sets itself apart with its unique approach. Its massive longlist is compiled by libraries all over the world before being whittled down by judges. This makes for a more egalitarian selection. It’s also got a long lead time. Books up for the current prize (to be named June 11th) were all published in 2007, putting the IMPAC more than a year behind other big literary awards. There’s a distinct upside in this. By now, all the shortlisted books are available in paperback. We’ve also always found the IMPAC interesting for the breadth of books it considers.This year’s shortlist includes a couple well-known names and has a decidedly more American bent than is typical, with four out of the eight shortlisted writers hailing from the States.The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz (Díaz in our Year in Reading)Ravel by Jean Echenoz (at The Complete Review)The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid (excerpt, at The Complete Review)The Archivist’s Story by Travis Holland (excerpt)The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles by Roy Jacobsen (in the TLS)The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt (Leavitt in our Year in Reading)Animal’s People by Indra Sinha (excerpt)Man Gone Down by Micheal Thomas (excerpt)
The National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) are worth paying attention to both because they are not limited to American (or British) writers like some of the other awards and because they sometimes include single out less well-known books for praise. Looking at the fiction finalists this year, both of those elements are certainly in play.FictionRoberto Bolaño, 2666 (Why Bolaño Matters, excerpt)Marilynne Robinson, Home (excerpt, a most anticipated book)Aleksandar Hemon, The Lazarus Project (excerpt)M. Glenn Taylor, The Ballad of Trenchmouth Taggart (excerpt)Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge (a Year in Reading pick, excerpt)NonfictionDexter Filkins, The Forever War (excerpt)Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering (excerpt)Jane Mayer, The Dark Side (excerpt, review)Allan Lichtman, White Protestant Nation (excerpt)George C. Herring, From Colony to Superpower: US Foreign Relations Since 1776 (excerpt)The NBCC also named finalists in the Criticism, Biography, Autobiography, and Poetry categories.
The winners of the 2004 National Book Awards have been announced:Fiction: The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck (excerpt)Non-fiction: Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle (excerpt)Young People’s Literature: Godless by Pete Hautman (excerpt)Poetry: Door In The Mountain: New And Collected Poems, 1965-2003 by Jean Valentine (poems)
Some of you may recall that the 2004 National Book Award caused quite a stir in newspaper book pages as well as on lit blogs last fall. The judges were decried by some for picking five finalists whose similarities – that all five of them were women hailing from NYC – were hard to ignore, and whose lack of name recognition left many perplexed. Others applauded the judges for making a statement, whether they meant to or not, that a lot of good, award-worthy fiction is not getting the recognition it deserves.With the announcement of the Pulitzer winner on Monday, the four major American fiction prizes (the other two are the National Book Critics Circle Awards and the PEN/Faulkner) have been awarded for 2004 and it’s possible to put the controversial NBA picks in perspective. For starters, I think it’s quite interesting that not a single NBA finalist was recognized by any of the other prizes. It’s possible that there was a backlash against the NBA finalists, but it’s more likely that this year the NBA judges simply took a different course than the rest of the literary establishment.I was especially surprised to discover that Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, winner of the Pulitzer and NBCC Awards and finalist for the PEN/Faulkner was in fact eligible for the NBA this year, yet was not deemed worthy of even a finalist spot for that award. Now that all the votes have been tallied, it’s clear that the National Book Award judges tried to go in a different direction this year, and no one else followed.
Last month, we unveiled the longlists for the Best Translated Book Awards (BTBA), an award founded by Three Percent that comes with a $5,000 prize for author and translator alike. Below, behold the finalists. The winner will be announced at a ceremony in New York and at The Millions on May 4.
Best Translated Book Award 2017: Fiction Finalists
Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya, translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell (Dominican Republic, Mandel Vilar Press)
Chronicle of the Murdered House by Lúcio Cardoso, translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson (Brazil, Open Letter Books)
Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi, translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman (Mauritius, Deep Vellum)
Zama by Antonio di Benedetto, translated from the Spanish by Esther Allen (Argentina, New York Review Books)
Doomi Golo by Boubacar Boris Diop, translated from the Wolof by Vera Wülfing-Leckie and El Hadji Moustapha Diop (Senegal, Michigan State University Press)
War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans, translated from the Dutch by David McKay (Belgium, Pantheon)
Umami by Laia Jufresa, translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes (Mexico, Oneworld)
Oblivion by Sergi Lebedev, translated from the Russian by Antonina W. Bouis (Russia, New Vessel Press)
Ladivine by Marie NDiaye, translated from the French by Jordan Stump (France, Knopf)
Among Strange Victims by Daniel Saldaña Paris, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney (Mexico, Coffee House Press)
Best Translated Book Award 2017: Poetry Finalists
Berlin-Hamlet by Szilárd Borbély, translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet (Hungary, New York Review Books)
Of Things by Michael Donhauser, translated from the German by Nick Hoff and Andrew Joron (Austria, Burning Deck Press)
Cheer Up, Femme Fatale by Yideum Kim, translated from the Korean by Ji Yoon Lee, Don Mee Choi, and Johannes Göransson (South Korea, Action Books)
In Praise of Defeat by Abdellatif Laâbi, translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith (Morocco, Archipelago Books)
With the awarding of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the 2010/2011 literary award season is now over, which gives us the opportunity to update our list of prizewinners.
Literary prizes are, of course, deeply arbitrary in many ways; such is the nature of keeping score in a creative field. Nonetheless, our prizewinners post is compiled in the same spirit that one might tally up Cy Young Awards and MVPs to determine if a baseball player should be considered for the Hall of Fame. These awards nudge an author towards the “canon” and help secure them places on literature class reading lists for decades to come.
There are three books climbing the ranks this year. Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad unsurprisingly had a good showing with judges. Meanwhile, the IMPAC win puts Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin on our list, and the shortlist nod does the same for Colm Tóibín’s Brooklyn.
Here is our methodology:
I wanted to include both American books and British books, as well as the English-language books from other countries that are eligible to win some of these awards. I started with the National Book Award and the Pulitzer from the American side and the Booker and Costa from the British side. Because I wanted the British books to “compete” with the American books, I also looked at a couple of awards that recognize books from both sides of the ocean, the National Book Critics Circle Awards and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. The IMPAC is probably the weakest of all these, but since it is both more international and more populist than the other awards, I thought it added something. The glaring omission is the PEN/Faulkner, but it would have skewed everything too much in favor of the American books, so I left it out.
I looked at these six awards from 1995 to the present, awarding three points for winning an award and two points for an appearance on a shortlist or as a finalist. Here’s the key that goes with the list: B=Booker Prize, C=National Book Critics Circle Award, I=International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, N=National Book Award, P=Pulitzer Prize, W=Costa Book Award [formerly the Whitbread] bold=winner, red=New to the list or moved up* the list since last year’s “Prizewinners” post
*Note that the IMPAC considers books a year after the other awards do, and so this year’s IMPAC shortlist nods were added to point totals from last year.
11, 2003, The Known World by Edward P. Jones – C, I, N, P
9, 2001, The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen – C, I, N, P
8, 2009, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel – B, C, W
8, 2007, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz – C, P, I
8, 1997, Underworld by Don DeLillo – C, I, N, P
7, 2005, The March by E.L. Doctorow – C, N, P
7, 2004, Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst – B, C, W
7, 2002, Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides – I, N, P
7, 2001, Atonement by Ian McEwan – B, C, W
7, 1998, The Hours by Michael Cunningham – C, I, P
7, 1997, Last Orders by Graham Swift – B, I, W
7, 1997, Quarantine by Jim Crace – B, I, W
6, 2010, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan – C, P
6, 2009, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann – N, I
6, 2009, Home by Marilynn Robinson – C, N, I
6, 2005, The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai – B, C
6, 2004, Gilead by Marilynn Robinson – C, P
5, 2009, Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín – W, I
5, 2008, The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry – B, W
5, 2008, Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – C, P
5, 2007, Tree of Smoke by Denis Johnson – N, P
5, 2006, The Road by Cormac McCarthy – C, P
5, 2006, The Echo Maker by Richard Powers – N, P
5, 2005, Europe Central by William T. Vollmann – C, N
5, 2005, The Accidental by Ali Smith – B, W
5, 2004, The Master by Colm Toibin – B, I
5, 2003, The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard – I, N
5, 2001, True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey – B, I
5, 2000, The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon – C, P
5, 2000, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood – B, I
5, 1999, Waiting by Ha Jin – N, P
5, 1999, Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee – B, C
5, 1999, Being Dead by Jim Crace – C, W
5, 1998, Charming Billy by Alice McDermott – I, N
5, 1997, American Pastoral by Philip Roth – C, P
5, 1996, Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge – B, W
5, 1996, Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser – N, P
5, 1995, The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie – B, W
5, 1995, The Ghost Road by Pat Barker – B, W
5, 1995, Independence Day by Richard Ford – C, P
5, 1995, Sabbath’s Theater by Philip Roth – N, P
So, it wasn’t Philip Roth, Amos Oz, Joyce Carol Oates, Haruki Murakami, Margaret Atwood, or Thomas Pynchon. Instead the honor has gone to Doris Lessing, a British writer who has explored themes of social issues and dabbled in science fiction. She debuted in 1950 with The Grass is Singing and has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize three times, for Briefing for a Descent into Hell in 1971, The Sirian Experiments in 1981 and The Good Terrorist in 1985 (two out of three of which are now out of print, though likely not for long). Lessing’s most recent book is The Cleft, which came out in August. And, though I’m no Lessing expert, her most notable work is thought to be The Golden Notebook from 1962. Interestingly, dating back to my bookstore days, out of all the major literary awards – the National Book Award, the Booker, and the Pulitzer – only the Nobel reliably drove significant interest. On the day the prize was announced, customers on the phone and in person would descend on the store, occasionally leading to problems when a relative unknown with little in print, like Imre Kertesz or Elfriede Jelinek, won the award.Bonus Links: The curious can dig into articles on Lessing and reviews of her work dating back to 1984 at the New York Times; much of Lessing’s copious output is available at Amazon.