Chinese, Korean, and Belgian Authors Among Those Honored in 2010 Northern California Book Reviewers Translation Awards

April 8, 2010

April 8, 2010—The Northern California Book Reviewers announce the finalists in their annual awards for translated fiction and poetry. Ranging from a career-spanning compilation from Korea's leading poet to the latest translated novel from Jean-Philippe Toussaint, one of Belguim's most celebrated authors, the NCBR translation awards honor this year's essential translations into English. Winners will be announced at the San Francisco Public Library's Koret Auditorium on Sunday, April 18, at 1:00 pm. Attendees are encouraged to RSVP on the Center for the Art of Translation's Facebook page.

Additionally, the Center for the Art of Translation—a San Francisco-based nonprofit promoting translation—is proud to offer praise to all of the fine titles under consideration for this year's award. According to Olivia Sears, an award judge and President of the Center, "When we announce the winners on April 18, it will only be part of the story. In my eyes these books are all worthy, and I hope readers will pick one up and experience it for themselves. With so few translations getting published each year, you can be confident that the ones that do get published are very good."

The titles considered for this year's award offer ample evidence of the diversity of books made possible by translation. They range from innovative, exciting novels and poetry collections to less easily categorized texts, such as the Bible and an experimental work by leading French thinker Hélène Cixous.

Starting on Monday, April 12, the Center for the Art of Translation's blog, Two Words, will offer informative posts on each of these books, giving readers a chance to learn more about each of them and inspiring readers to experience at least one of them. For additional information about the award, visit Two Words or contact the Center's Marketing Coordinator, Scott Esposito, at

Please see below for information on each of the titles under consideration.


Running Away by Jean-Philippe Toussaint. Translated from French by Matthew B. Smith. [FINALIST]

Toussaint's latest novel pulls the reader into a jet-lag reality, a confusion of time and place that is both particularly modern and utterly real. The Chaplinesque slapstick of his acclaimed early works The Bathroom and Camera is here replaced by an ever-unfolding fabric of questions, coincidences, and misapprehensions large and small. The mature Toussaint shows himself to be no less ingenious an inventor of existential dilemmas, but with a new, surprising tenderness, and a deepened concern for the inexpressible immediacy and sensuality of human experience.

"[O]ne . . . find[s] in Toussaint's truncations an admirable rebellion against a world that's submerged in too much information and too little beauty." — The New York Times

a Leap by Anna Enquist. Translated from Dutch by Jeannette Ringold. [FINALIST]

The characters in the monologues that make up a Leap seek a home, some kind of anchorage or self-realization, but circumstances or fate ensure that their goal remains elusive.

". . . Enquist exhibits surprising versatility; at the same time the monologue form brings out the best of her writing skills. . . . Her characters are people of flesh and blood with their own histories, obsessions and motivations. Enquist is very adept at psychological description as these monologues frequently show." —De Groene Amsterdammer

There's Nothing I Can Do When I Think of You Late at Night by Cao Naiqian. Translated from Chinese by John Balcom. [FINALIST]

Celebrated for its economy of expression, flashes of humor, and an emphasis on understatement rarely found in Chinese fiction, There's Nothing I Can Do When I Think of You Late at Night is an excellent introduction to the power and craft of Cao Naiqian. His vivid personalities and unflinching realism herald the haunting work of an original literary force.

"Cao examines the often barbaric side of human nature in the face of stark poverty and extreme necessity." — Publishers Weekly

The She-Devil in the Mirror by Horacio Castellanos Moya. Translated from Spanish by Katherine Silver.

A detective story of pulse-quickening suspense, The She-Devil in the Mirror is also a sober reminder that justice and truth are more often than not illusive. Castellanos Moya's relentless, obsessive narrator—female, rich, paranoid, wonderfully perceptive, and, in the end, fabulously unreliable—paints with frivolous profundity a society in a state of collapse.

"Humor amid the madness and evil. Don't let the breezy, often funny and frequently irreverent tone fool you." — Sunday Washington Times

Cities without Palms by Tarek Eltayeb. Translated from Arabic by Kareem James Palmer-Zeid.

Tarek Eltayeb's first novel offers an uncompromising depiction of poverty in both the developed and the developing world. With its simple yet elegant style, Cities without Palms tells of a tragic human life punctuated by moments of true joy.

"Once started it is difficult to put down. It is sensational, original, and altogether a magnificent literary debut." — Banipal

Hyperdream by Hélène Cixous. Translated from French by Beverly Bie Brahic.

Hyperdream is a book of mourning, but also of morning, a tragedy-with-comedy and a universal family romance in which it transpires that the narrator is the veritable offspring of a "treasure of literature" in the form of a bed, purchased by her mother from a certain W. Benjamin in 1934, slept on for 40 years by her brother and dreamt of by her friend "J.D."

"The act of writing, Cixous claimed, 'is linked to the experience of disappearance, to the feeling of having lost the key to the world'. Hyperdream offers a world full of such absence. . . . It hovers, dreamily between novel and memoir." — Times Literary Supplement


Hovering at a Low Altitude: The Collected Poetry of Dahlia Ravikovitch. Translated from Hebrew by Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld. [FINALIST]

In poems about fathers and daughters, men and women, kings and their subjects, the precarious position of women and the plight of Palestinians under the Occupation, Dahlia Ravikovitch articulates the painful asymmetries of power. The extraordinary stylistic range of her poetry reveals her mastery of the verbal art.

"[Ravikovitch's] song is both ancient and new, and it is unutterably poignant." — Stanley Kunitz

Songs for Tomorrow: A Collection of Poems 1960-2002 by Ko Un. Translated from Korean by Brother Anthony of Taizé, Young-moo Kim, and Gary Gach. [FINALIST]

In this long awaited full survey of the poetic writing of Korea's leading literary spokesperson, the translators have gathered poems from 42 years, representing numerous of the author's 135 books. As they note in their introduction, "Ko Un is . . . like a force of nature."

"Bodhisattva of Korean poetry, exuberant, demotic, abundant, obsessed with poetic creation . . . a magnificent poet, combination of Buddhist cognoscente, passionate political libertarian, and naturalist historian." — Allen Ginsberg

"Ko Un outfoxes the Old Masters and the Young poets both." — Gary Snyder

Desolation of the Chimera by Luis Cernuda. Translated from Spanish by Stephen Kessler. [FINALIST]

Written between 1950 and 1962, the poems in this collection amount to the final poetic testament of one of Spain's most important twentieth-century poets. These last two volumes of Cernuda's life work, Con las horas contadas (With Time Running Out) and Desolación de la Quimera, show a master at work with nothing left to prove. Exiled in Mexico after more than a decade in the inhospitable northern climates of Scotland and New England, the poet savors the warmth and cultural continuity of his new residence while maintaining his long argument with his Iberian homeland, a love/hate relationship explored directly and indirectly. Love in its various cruelties and pleasures is the other constant theme of these books; Cernuda's open homosexuality and passionate connection with younger men are invoked with a range of emotions and from perspectives of gratification and acutely felt loss.

"Few modern poets, in any language, give us this chilling sense of knowing ourselves to be before a man who really speaks, effectively possessed by the fatality and the lucidity of passion. If it were possible to define in a phrase the place Cernuda occupies in modern Spanish-language poetry, I would say he is the poet who speaks not for all, but for each one of us who make up the all." — Octavio Paz

The Restored New Testament: A New Translation with Commentary, Including the Gnostic Gospels Thomas, Mary, and Judas. Translated from Greek by Willis Barnstone.

For the first time since the King James Version in 1611, Willis Barnstone has given us an amazing literary and historical version of the New Testament. Barnstone preserves the original song of the Bible, rendering a large part in poetry and the epic Revelation in incantatory blank verse. This monumental translation is the first to restore the original Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew names (Markos for Mark, Yeshua for Jesus), thereby revealing the Greco-Jewish identity of biblical people and places. Citing historical and biblical scholarship, he changes the sequence of texts and adds three seminal Gnostic gospels. Each book has elegant introductions and is thoroughly annotated. With its superlative writing and lyrical wisdom, The Restored New Testament is a magnificent biblical translation for our age.

"In an achievement remarkable by almost any standard, and surely one of the events of the year in publishing, renowned poet and scholar Barnstone has created a new and lavish translation—almost transformation—of the canonical and noncanonical books associated with the New Testament. . . . Essential." — Library Journal, Starred Review