The Israeli Katheryn Bigelow! Well, Sort of…



In the wake of Katheryn Bigelow winning Oscar after Oscar, it seems fitting that the author to win this year’s fiction Best Translated Book Award is an woman and an Israeli.  And a woman also won for the poetry selection, a Russian woman at that.  Not nearly enough women are represented in contemporary literature, especially from countries such as Israel and Russian.  I am posting  the press release from Three Percent for the Best Translated Book Award 2010 to give a quick overview of each work.  I was unable to attend the awards ceremony this year, but I am sure it was exciting.  Held at the dreamy Idlewild Books(as if the ceremony wasn’t enough, I am even more depressed that I didn’t get to finally peruse the aisles at Idlewild), translators, critics, writers, and booksellers gathered to fete the incredibly rich offering from works around the world.  I am looking forward to posting some video of the event as soon as I get my hands on it.  Until then, know that I will post reviews of both works in the near future.  I can assure you all, dear readers, that it was one of the most difficult and provocative years for international literature and prove excruciating to choose a winner.  As with any decision that involves a passionate commitment to honor those that deserve to be recognized, it got tense.  But we feel we chose the best of the best.  Enjoy them immediately.

March10, 2010—Gail Hareven’s The Confessions of Noa Weber, translated from the Hebrew by Dalya Bilu and published by Melville House Press, and Elena Fanailova’s The Russian Version,translated from the Russian by Genya Turovskaya and Stephanie Sandler and published by Ugly Duckling Presse, are the recipients of this year’s Best Translated Book Awards for fiction and poetry, respectively. The announcement was made at a special award party at Idlewild Books, a New York City bookstore that specializes in travel books andinternational literature. Organized by Three Percent at the University of Rochester (, the Best Translated Book Award is the only prize of its kind to honor the best original works of international literature and poetry published in the U.S. over the past year.

“It was very difficult choosing a winner from the ten fiction finalists,” said Chad W. Post, panelist and director of Three Percent and Open Letter Books. “There were four or five titles that we all would’ve been happy to see win. This just goes to show how many high-quality works are coming out in English translation.Over the past three years of the award, we’ve honored five different presses and works from five different languages. Despite the common laments about the paltry percentage of books published in America that originate elsewhere, it’s clear that there are a number of really excellent books from all corners of the globe making their way over here. That said, it’s a big night for both women writers and Brooklyn-based indie presses.”

 The Confessions of Noa Weber is the story of a middle-aged writer who married a man out of convenience (to escape her military duty) and continues to love him throughout the rest of her life, despite the fact that he leaves her for Russia, another woman, and a different life. Gail Hareven is the author of six novels and three short stories collections; Noa Weber is her first title to be published in English. Dalya Bilu is a well-known translator of Hebrew literature and has been awarded a number of prizes, including the Times Literary Supplement and Jewish Book Council Award for Hebrew-English Translation. Melville House Press—an independent publisher most well-known for its political titles and its “Art of the Novella” series—released this book in the spring of 2009 to great acclaim.

In addition to The Russian Version, Elena Fanailova is the author of four other poetry collections,which have earned her a reputation as one of Russia’s great contemporary voices. According to Idra Novey, chair of the Best Translated Book Award poetry panel, “The Russian Version obliterates the stereotype of what Great Russian Poetry should sound like. Fanailova has the candor and compassion of Akhmatova and a gift for striking metaphor that might bring Mandelstam to mind. She is also ruthlessly quick to fire ‘from the hip,’ as she says in the title poem, and her aim is impeccable.” Genya Turovskaya emigrated to the U.S. from the Ukraine and is a highly respected poet in her own right. Stephanie Sandler not only translates, but is a professor at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. Ugly Duckling Presse is a nonprofit, Brooklyn-based publishing house that is cherished for its exquisite book design and its aesthetically adventurous “Eastern European Poets Series,” of which this title is a part.


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