If you're still mulling over gifts for friends and family (or, like me, building up a pile of your own reading to keep the winter from the door), there are many lists out there to help you -- perhaps none as idiosyncratic, considered and exciting as Three Percent's Best Translated Book of 2008. The shortlist of 25 includes one Arabic title, Yalo by Elias Khoury. They're posting daily reviews of the titles, with the winner to be revealed on Jan 26.
They're also developing databases of all the translations published in the US in 2008 (and 2009): check them out for reading recommendations, and email chad [dot] post [at] rochester [dot] edu if you're a publisher or translator and have books to add.
Words Without Borders staff make their picks (all works in translation), appealingly, around the "fireplace with our mugs of hot toddy", and the list glows with that spirit. Equally thoughtful, although reading more as if conceived during pedeconferences along the corridors of power, the Slate best of 2008.
Ian Irvine at the New Statesman begins his list with the assertion that: "As English has increasingly become the world's default language, more and more non-traditional and non-anglophone areas of experience have begun to find expression in the English novel." His first two titles defy that claim, in some sense, taking the default language and hybridising, blending and turning English inside out, into what Evelyn Ch'ien calls "weird English."
Either way, it gets Irvine out of listing -- or reading? -- anything in translation. But this may be "house style" as in the same issue, Jonathan Derbyshire sets out the "Rise of the new Anglo-world order," in which he claims for the "Anglosphere" (English-speaking countries, and English speakers in former British colonies) the role that Goethe foresaw for German in his conception of "world literature." Derbyshire's argument is contradictory: on the one hand, English achieved dominance through empire, and so is English-language literature is enriched by writers and speakers of multiple, changing Englishes (with Salman Rushdie, as ever, as the case in point); on the other, English is globally dominant and therefore everyone, not only former colonial subjects, has to use English to be heard. Given that, as Derbyshire points out, Arabic, Mandarin and Spanish are equally *numerically* dominant (along with French and Turkish), the missing connection, of course, is the power of the marketplace, and English as the language of economic, as well as cultural, globalisation.
Which is somewhere more political than I intended to arrive in this seasonal round-up -- although I did also want to flag up the case of Omid Reza Mirsyafi, an Iranian blogger jailed (the thirtieth blogger so far) for 2 1/2 years. If you can find time (away from reading? shock!), then Amnesty's Greeting Cards campaign makes it easy to send messages of support online to human rights organisations around the world. And if you still have room on your reading list, there a new online issue of Transcript with a focus on Turkish literature.
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