The 2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature

    “The 2018 National Book Award winners were officially announced on Wednesday night (14th of November 2018) at a ceremony in New York City.

    And, along with the return of the “Translated Literature” category for the first time since 1983, there were more than a few surprising winners.”

    The 2018 National Book Award  for Translated Literature:

    “The Emissary” (Kentoshi, 2014) by Yoko Tawada (Japan/Germany)

    Translated by Margaret Mitsutani

    Yoko Tawada’s Dystopian Novel ‘The Emissary’ Delivers a Bitingly Smart Satire of Present-Day Japan.

    The Emissary’ takes place in a Japan that has once again closed its borders to the outside world. No specific disaster or timeline is mentioned, but a nuclear fallout seems likely. The outskirts of Japan—Hokkaido, Kyuushuu, and Osaka—have become the most desirable places to live, while Tokyo is increasingly abandoned due to its radioactive soil and unattractive architecture. But there is a darker side still to Tawada’s fictional portrait of Japan.”

    Translated Literature Finalists:

    Olga Tokarczuk, Flights (Bieguni, 2007 ; Poland)

    Hanne Ørstavik, Love (Kjærlighet, 1997 ; Norway)

    Domenico Starnone, Trick (Scherzetto, 2016 ; Italy)

    Négar Djavadi, Disoriental (Désorientale, 2016; France)

    The National Book Awards are a set of annual U.S. literary awards. At the final National Book Awards Ceremony every November, the National Book Foundation presents the National Book Awards and two lifetime achievement awards to authors.

    National Book Awards are currently given to one book (author) annually in each of five categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, translated literature, and young people’s literature.

    National Book Foundation previously gave a translation award from 1967-1983, but did not require the author to be living and was for fiction only.

    The National Book Awards were established in 1936 by the American Booksellers Association, abandoned during World War II, and re-established by three book industry organizations in 1950. Non-U.S. authors and publishers were eligible for the pre-war awards. Now they are presented to U.S. authors for books published in the United States roughly during the award year.

    The nonprofit National Book Foundation was established in 1988 to administer and enhance the National Book Awards and “move beyond them into the fields of education and literacy“, primarily by sponsoring public appearances by writers. Its mission is “to celebrate the best of literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of good writing”.

    Yōko Tawada (多和田葉子 Tawada Yōko, born March 23, 1960) is a Japanese writer currently living in Berlin, Germany.

    She writes in both Japanese and German.

    Tawada has won numerous Japanese and German literary awards, including the Akutagawa Prize, the Tanizaki Prize, the Noma Literary Prize, the Izumi Kyōka Prize for Literature, the Gunzo Prize for New Writers, the Goethe Medal, and the Kleist Prize.

    Tawada has cited Paul Celan and Franz Kafka as important literary influences.

    Tawada writes in Japanese and German. Scholars of her work have adopted her use of the term exophony to describe the condition of writing in a non-native language.

    Early in her career Tawada enlisted the help of a translator to produce German editions of her Japanese manuscripts, but later she simultaneously generated separate manuscripts in each language through a process she calls “continuous translation.”

    Over time her work has diverged by genre as well as language, with Tawada tending to write longer works such as plays and novels in Japanese, and shorter works such as short stories and essays in German. She also tends to create more neologisms when writing in German than when writing in Japanese.

    Tawada’s writing highlights the strangeness of one language, or particular words in one language, when seen from the perspective of someone who speaks another language.

    Her writing uses unexpected words, alphabets, and ideograms to call attention to the need for translation in everyday life.She has said that language is not natural but rather “artificial and magical,” and has encouraged translators of her work to replace word play in her manuscripts with new word play in their own languages.


    Selected works in English

    “Where Europe Begins”, 2002

    “The Bridegroom Was a Dog” (Inu muko iri, 犬婿入り, 2003. This edition includes “Missing Heels” (Kakato o nakushite).

    “Hair Tax” Words Without Borders, April 2005 issue 55.

    “Facing the Bridge”, 2007

    “The Naked Eye”, 2009

    “Portrait of a Tongue”, 2013

    “Celan Reads Japanese”, The White Review, March 2013, [54]

    “The Far Shore”, Words Without Borders, March 2015 issue [56]

    “To Zagreb”, Granta 131, 2015 [57]

    “Memoirs of a Polar Bear”, Granta 136, 2016 [58]

    “Memoirs of a Polar Bear”, 2016

    “The Last Children of Tokyo”, Granta 142, 2018 [59]

    “The Emissary”, 2018

    Originally in German

    “Nur da wo du bist da ist nichts” /”Anata no iru tokoro dake nanimo nai”, 1987

    “Das nackte Auge”, 2004

    “Etüden im Schnee”, 2014

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