Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize Longlist 2022

The Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize has just announced a longlist of sixteen titles in translation, normally only announcing a shortlist of eight titles, stating that this is to showcase the diversity of the entries.

The Prize is for a book-length literary translation, into English, from any living European language. “It aims to honour the craft of translation and to recognise its cultural importance”. It was founded by Lord Weidenfeld and is supported by New College, The Queen’s College, and St Anne’s College, Oxford.

The longlisted titles are as follows (author, title, translator):

Jakuta Alikavazovic ‘Night As It Falls’ (tr. Jeffrey Zuckerman)

Eva Baltasar ‘Permafrost’ (tr. Julia Sanches)

Édith Azam ‘Bird Me’ (tr. Stuart Bell)

Raphaela Edelbauer ‘The Liquid Land’ (tr. Jen Calleja)

Jon Fosse ‘A New Name’ (tr. Damion Searls)

Julian Fuks ‘Occupation’ (tr. Daniel Hahn)

Monika Kompaníková ‘Boat Number Five’ (tr. Janet Livingstone)

Andrea Lundgren ‘Nordic Fauna’ (tr. John Litell)

Salvatore Quasimodo ‘The Complete Poems’ (tr. Jack Bevan)

Montserrat Roig ‘The Song of Youth’ (tr. Tiago Miller)

Kateřina Rudčenková ‘Dream of a Journey’ (Alexandra Büchler)

Cristina Sandu ‘Union of Synchronised Swimmers’ (tr. By the author)

Maria Stepanova ‘Memory of Memory’ (tr. Sasha Dugdale)

Andrea Tompa ‘The Hangman’s House’ (tr. Bernard Adams)

Khal Torabully ‘Cargo Hold of Stars’ (tr. Nancy Naomi Carlson)

Adrienne Yabouza ‘Co-Wives, Co-Widows’ (tr. Rachael McGill)

The shortlist of eight titles will be announced at the end of this month, the prize of £2000 will be awarded at Oxford Translation Day on 11 June 2022.

Women’s Prize for Fiction 2022 Longlist

Appropriately on International Women’s Day the longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction is announced. Here are the thirteen titles longlisted for the 2022 Prize:

‘The Bread the Devil Knead’ by Lisa Allen-Agostini
‘Salt Lick’ by Lulu Allison
‘Remote Sympathy’ by Catherine Chidgey
‘The Paper Palace’ by Miranda Cowley Heller
‘The Sentence’ by Lousie Eldrich
‘Flamingo’ by Rachel Elliott
‘Sorrow and Bliss’ by Meg Mason
‘The Exhibitionist’ by Charlotte Mendelson
‘The Book of Form and Emptiness’ by Ruth Ozeki
‘This One Sky Day’ by Leone Ross
‘The Island of Missing Trees’ by Elif Shafak
‘The Great Circle’ by Maggie Shipstead
‘The Final Revival of Opal & Nev’ by Dawnie Walton

Eight of the thirteen titles beginning with “The…”

Of the titles I have only read one, “This One Sky Day” by Leone Ross as it was shortlisted for this year’s Goldsmiths Prize. I will possibly get to a few more over the coming months, depending upon availability (for example, last year’s longlisted ‘Detransition Baby’ by Torrey Peters took seven months to arrive in the post!!!)

This year’s judges are Mary Ann Sieghart (Chair), author of ‘The Authority Gap: Why We Still Take Women Less Seriously Than Men, and What We Can Do About It’, Pandora Sykes, journalist, Anita Sethi, author of ‘I Belong Here: a Journey Along the Backbone of Britain’, Dorothy Koomson, author of ‘I Know What You’ve Done’ and Lorraine Candy journalist.

This year the shortlist of six titles will be announced on 27 April and the winner on 15 June 2022, unlike some prizes this one gives you a decent amount of reading time to get through the titles before culling the list and announcing a winner.

2022 Stella Prize Longlist

The Stella Prize is a one of the major Australian literary awards, one that celebrates Australian women’s writing, cis, trans, and non-binary inclusive, and champions diversity and cultural change.

The prize is named after one of Australia’s iconic female authors, Stella Maria Sarah ‘Miles’ Franklin, and was awarded for the first time in 2013. This year the award was changed to allow:

Novels
Memoirs
Biographies
Histories
Collections of short stories by a single author
Single-author poetry collections of at least 40 pages
Verse novels
Novellas of at least 20,000 words, and
Illustrated books, including graphic novels, provided they are accompanied byt a substantial quantity of text

The 2022 Stella Prize longlist was announced on 28 February 2022, here are the titles (in alphabetical order by author surname):

  • Coming of Age in the War on Terror by Randa Abdel-Fattah (NewSouth Books)     
  • TAKE CARE by Eunice Andrada (Giramondo Publishing)                                                 
  • Dropbear by Evelyn Araluen (University of Queensland Press)
  • She Is Haunted by Paige Clark (Allen & Unwin)
  • No Document by Anwen Crawford (Giramondo Publishing)
  • Bodies of Light by Jennifer Down (Text Publishing)
  • Bila Yarrudhanggalangdhuray by Anita Heiss (Simon & Schuster)
  • Stone Fruit by Lee Lai (Fantagraphics)
  • Permafrost by SJ Norman (University of Queensland Press)
  • Homecoming by Elfie Shiosaki (Magabala Books)
  • The Open by Lucy Van (Cordite Books)
  • Another Day in the Colony by Chelsea Watego (University of Queensland Press)  

Each of the longlisted writers will receive $1,000 in prizemoney with the grand prize of $50,000 for “one outstanding book deemed to be original, excellent, and engaging.” The 2022 shortlist will be announced on Thursday 31 March, and the winner will be announced on Thursday 28 April.

Four of the twelve titles are poetry, the first year entries have been accepted, seven of the twelve books written by debut authors, and five of the twelve by First Nations authors.

The 2022 Stella Prize judges are Melissa Lucashenko (Chair), Declan Fry, Cate Kennedy, Sisonke Mismang, and Oliver Reeson.

Republic of Consciousness Prize Longlist 2022

The Republic of Consciousness Prize was established by author Neil Griffiths with £2,000 of his own money to celebrate “small presses producing brilliant and brave literary fiction” in the UK and Ireland. Small presses being defined as having fewer than five full-time employees. The first Prize was awarded in 2017 to John Keene’s ‘Counternarratives’ (Fitzcarraldo Editions) and subsequent winners have been Eley Williams’ ‘Attrib. and Other Stories’ (Influx Press) in 2018, Will Eaves for ‘Murmur’ (CB Editions) in 2019, Jean-Baptiste Del Amo took home the prize for ‘Animalia’ in 2020, translated by Frank Wynne (Fitzcarraldo Editions) and last year Jacaranda Books took the main gong for ‘Lote” by Shola von Reinhold.

The Prizemoney has changed again this year with the publisher of all longlisted titles receiving £500 towards their work producing literature of high merit.  Each of the short-listed presses will received £1500 (2/3rds to press; 1/3rd to writer), and as is now traditional, the winner or winners just get the glory.

Earlier this week the longlist for the 2022 Prize was announced. Here are those books (listed alphabetically by publisher as the Prize has chosen to do, with the blurbs directly from the publisher):

And Other Stories for ‘Somebody Loves You’ by Mona Arshi

“A teacher asked me a question, and I opened my mouth as a sort of formality but closed it softly, knowing with perfect certainty that nothing would ever come out again.”

Ruby gives up talking at a young age. Her mother isn’t always there to notice; she comes and goes and goes and comes, until, one day, she doesn’t. Silence becomes Ruby’s refuge, sheltering her from the weather of her mother’s mental illness and a pressurized suburban atmosphere.

Plangent, deft, and sparkling with wry humour, Somebody Loves You is a moving exploration of how we choose or refuse to tell the stories that shape us.

Dar Arab for ‘Five Days Untold’ by Badr Ahmad (translated by Christiann James)

Ziad wants no part of this terrible civil war, but what choice did the government give him? Ill-trained and poorly-equipped, he longs to leave the frontlines and return home to the simple life of a craftsman he once knew. Getting back won’t be easy though. As enemy jets rain down missiles and the outside world doesn’t seem to care, Ziad realizes his harrowing journey has just begun. Five Days Untold is an unflinching portrait of war on the micro level, yet Ziad’s struggle and determination to survive are at once instantly recognizable and profoundly universal to us all. (Taken from back cover of book as publisher doesn’t have a website).

Daunt Books for ‘Our Lady of the Nile’ by Scholastique Mukasonga (translated by Melanie Mauthner)

Parents send their daughters to Our Lady of the Nile to be moulded into respectable citizens, and to protect them from the dangers of the outside world. The young ladies are expected to learn, eat, and live together, presided over by the colonial white nuns.

It is fifteen years prior to the 1994 Rwandan genocide and a quota permits only two Tutsi students for every twenty pupils. As Gloriosa, the school’s Hutu queen bee, tries on her parents’ preconceptions and prejudices, Veronica and Virginia, both Tutsis, are determined to find a place for themselves and their history. In the struggle for power and acceptance, the lycée is transformed into a microcosm of the country’s mounting racial tensions and violence. During the interminable rainy season, everything slowly unfolds behind the school’s closed doors: friendship, curiosity, fear, deceit, and persecution.

Our Lady of the Nile is a landmark novel about a country divided and a society hurtling towards horror. In gorgeous and devastating prose, Mukasonga captures the dreams, ambitions and prejudices of young women growing up as their country falls apart.

Epoque Press for ‘The Beast They Turned Away’ by Ryan Dennis

Íosac Mulgannon is a man called to stand. Losing a grip on his mental and physical health, he is burdened with looking after a mute child whom the local villagers view as cursed.

The aging farmer stubbornly refuses to succumb in the face of adversity and will do anything, at any cost, to keep hold of his farm and the child.

This dark and lyrical debut novel confronts a claustrophobic rural community caught up in the uncertainties of a rapidly changing world.

Fitzcarraldo Editions for ‘Dark Neighbourhood’ by Vanessa Onwuemezi

In her brilliantly inventive debut collection, Vanessa Onwuemezi takes readers on a surreal and haunting journey through a landscape on the edge of time. At the border with another world, a line of people wait for the gates to open; on the floor of a lonely room, a Born Winner runs through his life’s achievements and losses; in a suburban garden, a man witnesses a murder that pushes him out into the community. Struggling to realize the human ideals of love and freedom, the characters of Dark Neighbourhood roam instead the depths of alienation, loss and shame. With a detached eye and hallucinatory vision, they observe the worlds around them as the line between dream and reality dissolves and they themselves begin to fragment. Electrifying and heady, and written with a masterful lyrical precision, Dark Neighbourhood heralds the arrival of a strikingly original new voice in fiction.

Fum D’Estampa Press for ‘The Song of Youth’ by Montserrat Roig (translated by Tiago Miller)

In The Song of Youth, Montserrat Roig boldly presents eight remarkable stories that use language as a weapon against political and social “dismemory”. Her powerful and striking prose allows the important stories of those silenced by the brutal Franco regime to, at last, come to the fore. The Song of Youth is undoubtedly feminist and deeply critical but, as always, Roig’s lyrical writing gives shape, depth, and significance to the human experience.

Lolli Edition for ‘After The Sun’ by Jonas Eika (translated by Sherilyn Nicolette Hellberg)

Under Cancún’s hard blue sky, a beach boy provides a canvas for tourists’ desires, seeing deep into the world’s underbelly. An enigmatic encounter in Copenhagen takes an IT consultant down a rabbit hole of speculation that proves more seductive than sex. The collapse of a love triangle in London leads to a dangerous, hypnotic addiction. In the Nevada desert, a grieving man tries to merge with an unearthly machine.

After the Sun opens portals to our newest realities, haunting the margins of a globalised world that’s both saturated with yearning and brutally transactional. Infused with an irrepressible urgency, Eika’s fiction seems to have conjured these far-flung characters and their encounters in a single breath. Juxtaposing startling beauty with grotesquery, balancing the hyperrealistic with the fantastical, he has invented new modes of storytelling for an era when the old ones no longer suffice.

Peninsula Press for ‘Sterling Karat Gold’ by Isabel Waidner

Sterling is arrested one morning without having done anything wrong. Plunged into a terrifying and nonsensical world, Sterling – with the help of their three best friends – must defy bullfighters, football players and spaceships in order to exonerate themselves and to hold the powers that be to account.

Sterling Karat Gold is Kafka’s The Trial written for the era of gaslighting – a surreal inquiry into the real effects of state violence on gender-nonconforming, working-class and black bodies.

Following the Goldsmiths Prize–nominated We Are Made of Diamond Stuff, Isabel Waidner’s latest novel proposes community, inventiveness and the stubborn refusal to lie low as antidotes against marginalisation and towards better futures.

Turas Press for ‘In the Dark’ by Anamaria Crowe Serrano

Terual, north-east Spain, winter, 1937. The civil war is raging, pitting neighbour against neighbour, tearing families apart. Franco’s Nationalist rebels have surrounded the devastated, Republican-held city.  This is the story of a house, of the people who take refuge there – and a dangerous secret within. María and her sister Julita mourn their lost loved ones and try to bury their differences. But only one person knows the secret of the house, hidden deep in the dark– a deserter from the conflict, a soldier who has dared to leave the fighting to come home – and the woman who dares to protect him.

Tilted Axis Press for ‘Happy Stories, Mostly’ by Norman Erikson Pasaribu (translated by Tiffany Tsao)

Playful, shape-shifting and emotionally charged, Happy Stories, Mostly is a collection of twelve stories that queer the norm. Inspired by Simone Weil’s concept of ‘decreation’, and often drawing on Batak and Christian cultural elements, these tales put queer characters in situations and plots conventionally filled by hetero characters.

The stories talk to each other, echo phrases and themes, and even shards of stories within other stories, passing between airports, stacks of men’s lifestyle magazines and memories of Toy Story 3, such that each one almost feels like a puzzle piece of a larger whole, but with crucial facts – the saddest ones, the happiest ones – omitted, forgotten, unbearable.

A blend of science fiction, absurdism and alternative-historical realism, Happy Stories, Mostly is a powerful puff of fresh air, aimed at destabilising the heteronormative world and exposing its underlying absences.

Links in the titles are to my views of the books, to date having only read two, interestingly the Scholastique Mukasonga title I read in 2015 when it was longlisted for the USA Best Translated Book Award and published by Archipelago Books in the USA.

The 2022 judges are Kate Briggs (author of ‘This Little Art’ Fitzcarraldo 2017), Wendy Erskine (author of ‘Sweet Home’ 2018 Stinging Fly & 2019 Picador), and Martin Koerner (general manager Waterstones Piccadilly). The short-list for the Republic of Consciousness Prize will be announced on the 26th of March 2022.

Dublin Literary Award 2021

Viewing statistics on my blog show people love a list. So today I bring you the 49 novels nominated for the 2021 Dublin Literary Award, the longlist was announced on 4 February 2021.

Long term followers of this blog would know I have been an advocate and supporter of the Award over the years, this is an Award where the titles are drawn from member libraries all over the planet, with the longlist of 49 titles being filtered down to a shortlist of ten.

Although 49 titles could appear daunting, have a look at the last eight awards and the number of books on the longlist:

2013 – 145

2014 – 144

2015 – 133

2016 – 150

2017 – 138

2018 – 141

2019 – 141

2020 – 156

This year’s judges, Jan Carson, David James Karashima, Dr Rita Sakr, Dr Martín Veiga, Enda Wyley and non-voting chair Professor Chris Morash, have an easier time than the previous judges!

The prize for the Award is €100,000 and is awarded to the author of the winning book, if the winning book is in English translation, €75,000 is awarded to the author and €25,000 to the translator.

Of the 49 books nominated by libraries from 30 countries across Africa, Europe, Asia, the US & Canada, South America and Australia & New Zealand, eighteen are novels in translation, the titles span ten languages and ten of the books are first novels.

Onto the list (listed alphabetically by author)

‘Clap When You Land’ Elizabeth Acevedo

‘Things That Fall From The Sky’ (tr from the Finnish by Emily Jeremiah and Fleur Jeremiah) Selja Ahava

‘Until Stones Become Lighter Than Water’ (tr from the Portuguese by Jeff Love) António Lobo Antunes

‘Homeland’ (tr from the Spanish by Alfred MacAdam) Fernando Aramburu

‘The Vanishing Half’ Brit Bennett

‘The White Girl’ Tony Birch

‘It Would Be Night in Caracas’ (tr from the Spanish by Elizabeth Bryer) Karina Sainz Borgo

‘The Cat and The City’ Nick Bradley

‘The Confessions of Frannie Langton’ Sara Collins

‘The Innocents’ Michael Crummey

’The Pelican: A Comedy’ (tr from the Dutch by Jonathan Reeder) Martin Michael Driessen

‘Catacombs’ Mary Anna Evans

‘Girl, Woman, Other’ Bernardine Evaristo

‘The Other Name: Septology I-II’ (tr from the Norwegian by Damion Searls) Jon Fosse

‘Gun Island’ Amitav Ghosh

‘When All is Said’ Anne Griffin

‘The Eighth Life (for Brilka)’ (tr from the German by Charlotte Collins & Ruth Martin) Nino Haratischwili

‘Beyond Yamashita and Percival’ (tr from the Malay by the author) Shaari Isa

‘Tyll’ (tr from the German by Benjamin Ross) Daniel Kehlmann

‘The Ditch’ (tr from the Dutch by Sam Garrett) Herman Koch

‘While the Music Played’ Nathaniel Lande

‘Lost Children Archive’ Valeria Luiselli

‘The Boy’ (tr from the French by Emma Ramadan & Tom Roberge) Marcus Malte

‘Auē’ Becky Manawatu

‘The Glass Hotel’ Emily St John

‘Apeirogon’ Colum McCann

’Hurricane Season’ (tr from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes) Fernanda Melchor

‘The Silent Patient’ Alex Michaelides

‘Cilka’s Journey’ Heather Morris

‘Dark Mother Earth’ (tr from the Croatian by Ellen Elias-Bursac) Kristian Novak

‘Night. Sleep. Death. The Stars’ Joyce Carol Oates

‘Inland’ Téa Obreht

‘Shadowplay’ Joseph O’Connor

‘Mona in Three Acts’ (tr from the Dutch by Michele Hutchison) Griet Op de Beeck

‘This Excellent Machine’ Stephen Orr

‘Mary Toft; Or, The Rabbit Queen’ Dexter Palmer

‘The Pine Islands’ (tr from the German by Jen Calleja) Marion Poschmann

‘A Chronicle of Forgetting’ (tr from the Slovene by Rawley Grau) Sebastijan Pregelj

‘We Cast a Shadow’ Maurice Ruffin

‘Beside Myself’ (tr from the German by Imogen Taylor) Sasha Marianna Salzmann

‘10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World’ Elif Shafak

‘The Subtweet: A Novel’ Vivek Shraya

‘Crossing’ (tr from the Finnish by David Hackston) Pajtim Statovci

‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’ Ocean Vuong

‘The Trumpet Shall Sound’ Eibhear Walshe

‘The Nickel Boys’ Colson Whitehead

‘Reproduction’ Ian Williams

‘The Bird King’ G. Willow Wilson

‘The Yield’ Tara June Winch

Most years I have read quite a selection from the list, but with the last twelve months being less than ideal for my reading output, I have only read three of the 49, and I did not write a review for any them (one I actually despised) and they were all read in 2019!!! That is quite embarrassing. I do own another handful of titles, however the challenge of securing and reading 46 more novels before the shortlist announcement on 25 March 2021 is beyond me. Getting through the ten shortlisted titles is a more achievable task with the winner being announced on 20 May 2021, leaving you almost two months to read ten books, let’s see what my mojo is like come 25 March 2021, however I must say I will be focusing on the Republic of Consciousness Prize at the same time.

Happy reading.

Republic of Consciousness Prize Longlist 2021

The Republic of Consciousness Prize was established by author Neil Griffiths with £2,000 of his own money to celebrate “small presses producing brilliant and brave literary fiction” in the UK and Ireland. Small presses being defined as having fewer than five full-time employees. The first Prize was awarded in 2017 to John Keene’s ‘Counternarratives’ (Fitzcarraldo Editions) and subsequent winners have been Eley Williams’ ‘Attrib. and Other Stories’ (Influx Press) in 2018, Will Eaves for ‘Murmur’ (CB Editions) in 2019 and last year Jean-Baptiste Del Amo took home the prize for ‘Animalia’, translated by Frank Wynne (Fitzcarraldo Editions).

The Prizemoney has changed this year with the publisher of all longlisted titles receiving £1,000, at total of £10,000. A further £10,000 will be split between the shortlisted titles, which will be announced in late March.

Earlier this week the longlist for the 2021 Prize was announced. Here are those books (listed alphabetically by publisher as the Prize has chosen to do):

•A Musical Offering by Luis Sagasti, tr. Fionn Petch (Charco Press)

The Appointment by Katharina Volckmer (Fitzcarraldo Editions)

•Mordew by Alex Pheby (Galley Beggar Press)

Mr. Beethoven by Paul Griffiths (Henningham Family Press)

•Unknown Language by Huw Lemmey and Hildegard von Bingen (Ignota Books)

•Lote by Shola von Reinhold (Jacaranda Books)

The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey (Peepal Tree Press)

Men and Apparitions by Lynne Tillman (Peninsula Press)

•Alindarka’s Children by Alhierd Bacharevic, tr. Jim Dingley & Petra Reid (Scotland Street Press)

A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa (Tramp Press)

I have read three of the titles, only giving my thoughts on one here (‘Mr. Beethoven’ by Paul Griffiths), however I will write up something about the other two in the coming weeks and will also get to a few more that sit on my shelves, hopefully before announcement of the shortlist. Links to my reviews will be updated on the list here.

This year’s judges are:

Guy Gunaratne, his first novel ‘Our Mad and Furious City’ winner of the International Dylan Thomas Prize, the Jhalak Prize and the Authors Club Best First Novel Award in 2019, also longlisted for the Booker Prize and shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize.

Eley Williams, winner of this Prize and the James Tait Black Prize in 2018 for ‘Attrib. and Other Stories’ (Influx Press).

John Mitchinson, co-founder of Unbound the book crowdfunding platform.

Prizemoney is largely donated from two sources: The University of East Anglia, through the UEA Publishing Project; and The Granta Trust, with the remainder of the prizemoney being raised through donations and through the Republic of Consciousness small press book club. I have been a member of their book club for a little while and as part of your membership you can choose to receive a fresh small press title each month, sometimes giving you a sneak preview as to the following year’s longlist.

If you would like to join their book club visit their website here for more details, I recommend it, a new book a month (even if mail to Australia is slow), and the knowledge that you are supporting a prize for small presses, those who push the boundaries and publish “brave literary fiction”.

Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor

Reservoir1313.

Tzameti, lines to a rondeau, chapters in The Art
of War
. Cards per suit, steps to the gallows, loaves in a
baker’s dozen. Diners at the Last Supper, gods at
Valhalla’s banquet, dismemberments of Osiris.
Studio LP’s by The Cure, lunar months every
calendar year, primary members of The Thirteen
Club. Olives, olive leaves, arrows and stars on the Great
Seal of the United States. Players in a rugby
league team; teenagers starring in 13, the Broadway
musical; letters in Bixby, Oklahoma, the city
where Scott Westerfield’s Midnighters trilogy,
gripped by this troublous number, is set. Syllables till
the broken motif of this poem. Lucky for some.
– Stuart Barnes (from “Glasshouses”, UQP, 2016)

Jon McGregor is also obsessed by the number 13 too, his latest novel taking place in a small ex-mining village that is located near Reservoir 13, a region where, on page one, a thirteen-year-old girl goes missing, the book follows the impact of this disappearance and the lives of the villagers (there could possibly be thirteen main players but my mapping couldn’t reconcile to that number) over thirteen years, using thirteen chapters, each containing thirteen sections or paragraphs.

Readers of Jon McGregor’s other works will know his ability to play with shape and form, using the written language as his tool to convey messages that go beyond the simple sentence structure and his latest work is no different.

Using a detached, snappy style, almost journalistic, the short sharp sentences reveal more than what is simply presented on the page, for example, “It was only when they saw the first children on their way to school that Will Jackson remembered he was due at his son’s mother’s house, to fetch the boy for school.” The “son’s mother’s” revealing an ex-partner, somebody removed from Will, not a character in our tale. Each sentence likewise gently crafted, giving you a melancholic and ruminative work.

Winnie’s grandchildren came to visit at the end of the month, and she took them out picking elderflowers in the old quarry by the main road, filling a bin-bag with the foamy white flower-heads and carrying it home on their shoulders. She sat them at the kitchen table and had them zesting the oranges and lemons she’d bought ready, while she picked the flower-heads clean and set them to soak overnight. By the next day they’d lost interest, and refused to leave the television when she added the sugar and fruit juice and heated it gently through. When her daughter came for the children she gave them a bottle of the cordial. IT was still warm and the light shone through it, and Winnie knew it would never be drunk. Her daughter hugged her lightly and kissed her cheek and said they’d see each other soon. The children waved from the back of the car.

The tone and structure lends a lonely air to the whole work, as each sketched character laments their own isolation, all internalised as they move in and out of each other’s orbit. The ghost of the missing girl hovering on the fringes of their world. A desperately sad work, the themes of isolation and internal turmoil bubble along, but never descend into melodrama.

Even though there is a missing child, life in the village continues, returns to “normal”;

The room emptied and the chairs were stacked away. The floor was swept and the lights turned off and Tony went back to the bar.

Throughout this reflective work the ever present changing seasons also feature, nature continues with the birth of badgers, pheasants, foxes and a myriad of birds, also revealed alongside the annual fireworks, cricket match, Mischief Day, harvest display and other recurring community events.

At midnight when the year turned there were fireworks on the big screen in the village hall and the sound of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ along the street. The Cooper twins were out for their first New Year, watching the fireworks from the Hunter place, their mother hurrying them back to bed as soon as the last rocket fell to earth. In the morning the snow was ankle-deep but by noon a hard rain had washed it away. The change came quickly, thick piles of snow falling in on themselves and hurtling away down drains and run-offs to the river, the river bright and loud with it and the streets left scrubbed and darkly gleaming and everywhere the first green tips of snowdrops nosing out of the soil. After the rain there was a quiet, the melting of roof-snow down drainpipes, and the calling of birds on thawing ground, and the whine of a chainsaw up in Hunter’s wood.

A novel that expertly draws on the slow passage of time, the recurring and the constants the features with the insignificance of individuality bubbling along like the local stream. I continue to remain a fan of Jon McGregor’s work, his book being one of the few novels written in English that I have read in the last twelve months, this book not changing my views on his ever-expanding oeuvre, meaning I will be searching out further new releases of his in the future.

The structure around the unlucky number “13” an interesting and haunting approach, with the “paragraphs” not forming a usual expected construction, concurrent events blending into one another as the lunar months pass, the passage of time ever present in the reading.

Longlisted for the 2017 Man Booker Prize, an award that this blog was originally established to follow, it is a book that is a worthy inclusion, and although I no longer follow the award itself it is a book that I would happily include on past shortlists. Given the style differs greatly from your standard “English Literature” fare, I believe it is a work that should go far when the winner of the 2017 award is debated.

 

Antígona González – Sara Uribe (translated by John Pluecker) – 2017 Best Translated Book Award Poetry

AntigonaGonzalez

Today more from Mexico, moving from Valeria Luiselli’s latest book “Tell Me How It Ends” back to the 2017 Best Translated Book Award Poetry longlist. Sara Uribe’s “Antígona González” uses the daughter/sister of Oedipus and the tale where she attempts to secure a respectable burial for her brother Polynices who was killed in battle, and transposes the search for a corpse to the present Mexican landscape where numerous people go missing.

My name is Antígona González and I am searching/among the dead for the corpse of my brother. (p7)

A work that is a grieving book, for a missing brother, for nameless bodies, for an uncaring society that allows disappearances to become the norm.

I came to San Fernando to search for my brother.
I came to San Fernando to search for my father.
I came to San Fernando to search for my husband.
I came to San Fernando to search for my son.
I came with the others for the bodies of our people. (p103)

Our poet’s missing brother is Tadeo and Sara Uribe uses a raft of inputs to explore disappearance, “the verb to disappear”, this is a heart wrenching work gives voice, and life, to the nameless, the anonymous;

 In my dream, I’m certain one of those suitcases is
Tadeo’s. Mamá gave him that name because he was
the one who struggled most at birth. She promised
ninety novenas to Saint Jude if he would save her son.
She prayed those novenas and baptized him in his
honor so that the hope of the hopeless would always
shine on him. So that the smallest of her children
would never forget that from his very birth he had
overcome adversity. (p43)

Through extensive use of space, some pages with central text, others from the top, others from the bottom of the page, the English translation appears alongside the Spanish text. The all-encompassing vastness of the Mexican desert, the missing persons and a fruitless search is relayed through the visual open presentation;

So I head out to my job on an empty stomach and as
I drive I thank of all the gaps, all the absences no one
notices and yet are there. (p81)

The stress, tension of not knowing comes through in the tight language, it is easy to imagine the poet ranting these lines at you, yelling her frustration at you. The book contains fourteen pages of references and notes, a detailed explanation of the resources used to create this multi-layered work, quotes from blogs, italicised text an interloper’s voice, facts including testimonies from victims and family members as compiled by journalists and quotes from other writers, including a sequence of questions by Harold Pinter from the poem “Death”, such as “WHO WAS THE DEAD BODY?” with answers coming from various other sources, the book resembles a performance art piece rather than simply a poetry collection.

All of us here will gradually disappear if no one searches
for us, if no one names us.

All of us here will gradually disappear if we just look
helplessly at each other, watching how we disappear one
by one. (p 165)

A book that explores the impacts of people disappearing, the grief that remains behind, the questioning, “the interpretation of Antigone is radically altered in Latin America – Polynices is identified with the marginalized and disappeared” (p23)

Also including seventeen pages of translator notes;

There is a startling specificity to this Antígona. We are in Tamaulipas, a state along the Gulf coast in Mexico and bordering the Río Bravo/Rio Grande in South Texas. It is a time of brutal violence that strains the very definition of the word “war,” as it evades any previous understanding of what “war” might be. A specific moment and a specific horror.

Antígona González is not Sophocles’ Antigone, though Uribe’s book is inexorably tied to the long trajectory of Sophocles’ tragedy. In his version, Antigone could not bear the dictate of Creon to leave her brother’s dead body exposed and unburied on a dusty plain. In Uribe’s version, Antígona González is bereft of a body to mourn, a body to bury. (p191)

Including a rationalisation process where the poet wonders what to do with Tadeo’s killers, the various stages of grieving are walked through as you become further and further frustrated at the lack of knowledge, the unknown and the endless missing persons, this is a very complex and moving book. Yet another worthwhile inclusion on the 2017 Best Translated Book Award longlists.

2017 Miles Franklin Award Longlist

LovingFaithful

The longlist for the 2017 Miles Franklin Literary Award has been announced.

A literature award that was first awarded in 1957, it is presented each year to the novel which if “of the highest literary merit and presents Australian life in any of its phases.”

A first prize of AUD$60,000 makes the Miles Franklin Award one of the most sought after in Australia. The Award was established through the will of the author Miles Franklin (most well-known for the work “My Brilliant Career”).

The winner will be announced in September, with the shortlist to be announced on 18 June 2017.

Here is the 2017 Longlist

Steven Amsterdam “The Easy Way Out”

Emily Mcguire “An Isolated Incident”

Mark O’Flynn “The Last Days of Ava Langdon”

Ryan O’Neill “Their Brilliant Careers”

Josephine Rowe “A Loving, Faithful Animal”

Philip Salom “Waiting”

Inga Simpson “Where The Trees Were”

Kirsten Tranter “Hold”

Josephine Wilson “Extinctions”

 

Instructions Within – Ashraf Fayadh (translated by Mona Kareem, Mona Zaki and Jonathan Wright) – Best Translated Book Award Poetry 2017

InstructionsWithin

In November 2015 Palestinian poet Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to death for renouncing Islam, his original sentence of four years in prison and 800 lashes in May 2014 was overturned on appeal and a “new panel of judges rules that his repentance did not prevent his execution.” (“The Guardian 20/11/2015 https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/20/saudi-court-sentences-poet-to-death-for-renouncing-islam) A further appeal has resulted in an eight year jail sentence and 800 lashes to be carried out over 16 occasions.

“In August 2013, he was detained by the mutaween (religious police) following a complaint that he was cursing against Allah and the prophet Muhammad, insulting Saudi Arabia and distributing a book of his poems that promoted atheism. Fayadh said the complaint arose from a personal dispute during a discussion in a cafe in Abha.” (“The Guardian” 3/2/2016)

His collection of poems “Instructions Within” was published, in translation, by The Operating System in November 2016 and was recently longlisted for the Best Translated Book Award (Poetry).

The first thing that strikes you when you pick up this collection is the binding, right bound, opening to the left, the book comes with an insert explanation from Lynne DeSilva-Johnson, the Founder and Managing Editor;

Each of The Operating System’s books questions design standard in order to dislodge our normative patterning and expectation, with the belief that continuous exposure to diversity on the page – both in content and design – affect not only the cognitive brain by the body as well, in so far as this required the ‘rewiring’ of brain behaviors, essentially getting us out of a ‘rut’ of repetitive reception.

INSTRUCTIONS WITHIN goes one step farther – requiring the western reader to hold and read the book as one would an Arabic or Hebrew volume, that is, by being right-bound. The westerner might find him or herself saying that the book ‘starts at the back’ or feeling vaguely uncomfortable holding the book and/or turning pages ‘backward’ but this is precisely the point: to disrupt the proprioceptic modelling that tells you that the way to do things, your patterning is not only yours but ‘right’ or ‘normal,’ when in fact hundreds of millions of people – billions of people – experience books and texts in directions different from our own.

Reading you are certainly off kilter, with the English versions of the poems appearing on the left page and the Arabic versions on the right, working from “the back”.

Immediately you are struck by the writer as a refugee;

The air is polluted, and the dumpsters,
and your soul, too, ever since it got mixed up with carbon.
And your heart, ever since the arteries got blocked
denying citizenship
to the blood coming back from your head.

  • From “A Space In The Void” (p6)

This opening poem setting the tone, space abounds, on the page, in the text, the loss of personal space, a newborn “child to fill another part of the void” (p14) even sleep is to “go back to your void” (p18). The page lightly peppered with the test, the white page filling the void.

The political is not far from the poet’s pen either with people displaced from their lands for oil, the poem “On The Virtues Of Oil Over Blood” containing;

You tremble now,
so take what there is of your blood
to fill the belly of exile –
to gather the overseers’ oil
and smother their intention to drag away your soul.
Ask forgiveness of the river –
and loudly apologize as your blood seeps into its waters. (p32)

The notes on page 42 explaining, “Almost all of this poem is quoted by the court that ruled for Ashraf’s death sentence.” The themes of the heart, desire, corpses, blood, oil and displacement are the recurring images, poem after poem.

I am looking for a land to love…or to love me
for a homes to shelter all the captives
of a war that didn’t carry any burdens
To lay them down.
I am looking for a ceiling other than a sky,
sick of veiling my shameful history

  • From “A Hired Lover” (p80)

The book also includes experimental works as in “B.I.M.”;

01000101011010101
01000101011010101
01000101011010101
compare and choose what the world accepts of you
I am
10001
I am
000
I am
1

(p 170)

This is activist poetry, poetry of oppression, jail cells, writing on walls, the conditions of being interred, all of this visited in the twenty-page poem “Amnesty”.

Although a 296-page book, the dual language presentation and some of the pages containing a mere two or three lines, it is not a weighty tome. Personally, I found the shorter one or two page poems more coherent, the longer ten to twenty page ones some of the symbolism or references were too obscure or politically specific for me to understand.

Being a refugee means standing at the end of the line
to get a fraction of a country.
Standing is something your grandfather did, without knowing the reason.
And the fraction is you.
Country: a card you put in your wallet with your money.
Money: pieces of paper with pictures of leaders.
Pictures: they stand in for you until you return.
Return: a mythical creature that appears in your grandfather’s stories.
There endeth the first lesson.
The lesson is conveyed to you so that you can learn the second lesson, which is
“what do you signify?”

  • From “The Last Of The Line Of Refugee Descendants” (p 248)

There are a few poems where the number of Arabic lines differ from the English translated lines, something that I found a little strange.

Overall an important work, one bringing to the English-speaking world the work of an activist poet, wonderfully presented to ensure you are always thinking about the original texts, and the process of reading. I will leave this review with a quote from the end notes by the founder and managing editor of “an operating system” Lynne  DeSilva-Johnson; “For it will, indeed, be the poets (musicians, artists, creators of all kind” who “wake up the world”.” An important message for these uncertain times.