Early this month the ninth annual Best Translated Book Awards were announced at The Folly in New York City, and at The Millions with Yuri Herrera’s 'Signs Preceding the End of the World', translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman, winning for fiction, making him the first Spanish-language writer to win the award for fiction. Angélica Freitas’s 'Rilke Shake', translated from the Portuguese by Hilary Kaplan, picked up the prize for poetry.
Lisa Dillman has translated almost a dozen books over the past few years, including works by Andrés Barba and Eduardo Halfon, and teaches Spanish at Emory College. Her translation of Herrera’s next novel, 'The Transmigration of Bodies' (also published by And Other Stories), comes out in July.
With 'Rilke Shake' taking home the poetry award, Phoneme Media becomes the first press to win for poetry in back-to-back years. (Diorama by Rocío Cerón, translated from the Spanish by Anna Rosenwong, won last year). Hilary Kaplan also received a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant to work on this collection.
This is the ninth iteration of the BTBA and the fifth in which the four winning authors and translators will receive $5,000 cash prizes thanks to funding from the Amazon Literary Partnership program.
According to reviews 'Signs Preceding the End of the World' is one of the most arresting novels to be published in Spanish in the last ten years. Yuri Herrera does not simply write about the border between Mexico and the United States and those who cross it. He explores the crossings and translations people make in their minds and language as they move from one country to another, especially when there's no going back. Traversing this lonely territory is Makina, a young woman who knows only too well how to survive in a violent, macho world. Leaving behind her life in Mexico to search for her brother, she is smuggled into the USA carrying a pair of secret messages - one from her mother and one from the Mexican underworld.
Rilke Shake's title, a pun on milkshake, means in Portuguese just what it does in English. With frenetic humor and linguistic innovation, Angelica Freitas constructs a temple of delight to celebrate her own literary canon. In this whirlwind debut collection, first published in Portuguese in 2007, Gertrude Stein passes gas in her bathtub, a sushi chef cries tears of Suntory Whisky, and Ezra Pound is kept "insane in a cage in pisa." Hilary Kaplan's translation is as contemporary and lyrical as the Portuguese-language original, a considerable feat considering the collection's breakneck pace.