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Elena Ferrante and Clarice Lispector up for Best Translated Book award

Author: Alison Flood
Newspaper: The Guardian
Date: Apr 20 2016
URL: http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/20/elena-ferrante-and-clarice-lispector-up-for-best-translated-book-award

The Italian novelist Elena Ferrante, already in the running for the 2016 Man Booker International prize, has made the shortlist for the Best Translated Book award.

Worth $5,000 (£3,500) to both its winning authors and translators, the prize is run by the Three Percent blog at the University of Rochester, and underwritten by Amazon.com’s literary partnership programmes. Ferrante was picked by judges for The Story of the Lost Child, the final novel in her Neapolitan series, which also made the Man Booker International prize shortlist last week. Translated by Ann Goldstein, the novel was called “the first work worthy of the Nobel prize to have come out of Italy for many decades” by the Observer.

Lispector is simply better at portraying women than pretty much any other candidate Amanda Nelson, judge Another title shortlisted for the Man Booker International also makes the 10-strong list: A General Theory of Oblivion by Angolan writer José Eduardo Agualusa, translated by Daniel Hahn. The novel tells of a woman who bricks herself into her apartment on the eve of Angolan independence and lives there for 30 years.

The late Brazilian author Clarice Lispector’s Complete Stories is also a finalist for the fiction award, translated from the Portuguese by Katrina Dodson. Published last summer for the first time in English, the 85-story collection is “proof that she was – in the company of Jorge Luis Borges, Juan Rulfo and her 19th-century countryman Machado de Assis – one of the true originals of Latin American literature”, according to the New York Times.

Judge Amanda Nelson of Book Riot said that “one of the most remarkable things about this collection is that it is so complete”, and that Lispector “is simply better at portraying women than pretty much any other candidate”.

“Lispector gives us the inner lives of women from childhood through very old age,” said Nelson. “Her women are real, they wrestle with marriage, they struggle with motherhood, they make art, they are bored, they have affairs, get old, play the ‘cool girl’ game long before Gillian Flynn’s Amy gave it a name in Gone Girl. Lispector’s stories all in one place say: we have always been here.”

Three Percent also revealed the six poetry collections up for its best translated poetry prize, with China’s Liu Xia picked for Empty Chairs, translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern. Liu is the wife of the imprisoned Nobel peace prize winner Liu Xiaobo. In one of her poems, June 2nd, 1989 (for Xiaobo), she writes of how:

I didn’t have a chance to say a word before you became a character in the news, everyone looking up to you as I was worn down at the edge of the crowd just smoking and watching the sky.

A new myth, maybe, was forming there, but the sun was so bright I couldn’t see it.

Alongside Liu’s work, a book collecting the work of eight Afghan women poets from Herat, Load Poems Like Guns, is shortlisted. The collection, edited and translated from the Persian by Farzana Marie, includes poetry by Nadia Anjuman, who wrote about the oppression of Afghan woman and was murdered by her husband in 2005. Judge, translator and publisher Deborah Smith said: “Two things about this book blew me away – one was the strength of the writing itself, and another was the astonishing work of its translator”.