The 2011 PEN World Voices Festival that took place in New York this spring (see my earlier blog reports here and here) featured members of the National Book Critics Circle recommending some of their favorite reads of the past year. These “stand-up critics” took the stage before each event in the festival to highlight their choices in each of five categories:
1) a contemporary novel
2) a translated book
3) a classic
4) a small/indie press title
5) a surprise
I was, of course, particularly glad to see translated works singled out for attention, and it was also great to have independent presses specifically highlighted as well, especially since such a large percentage of the works appearing in translation these days are published by smaller presses.
The featured NBCC critics at PEN World Voices were Roxana Robinson, Laura Miller, Lev Grossman, Jane Ciabattari, Rigoberto González and Eric Banks, and the translated works they chose were:
Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert, translated by Lydia Davis
Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Richard Pevear and
Larissa Volkonsky (Viking)
The Indian Bride, by Karin Fossum, translated by Charlotte Barslund
2666, by Roberto Bolano, translated by Natasha Wimmer (Farrar,
Straus and Giroux)
Without Blood, by Alessandro Baricco, translated by Ann Goldstein
The Black Minutes, by Martin Solares, translated by Aura Estrada and
John Pluecker (Grove)
A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, by Danilo Kis, translated by Duska Mikic-
Mitchell (Dalkey Archive Press)
Seven Years, by Peter Stamm, translated by Michael Hofmann (Other
There are more than five books on this list because some of the critics picked translated works in more than one category.
For more information about the books selected (such as which critic chose which books and what s/he had to say about them), see the NBCC’s blog. I very much hope that this tradition will continue at PEN World Voices in future years.