Three cheers for translated fiction

EBRD Literature PrizeMany moons ago, I was in a  Book Club with a member who proclaimed we should “never” read translated fiction. “After all,” she loved to stress, “we’ll never run out of fiction written in the English language.”

Yes, technically I suppose this is true. But what a narrow world view…

Not surprisingly, I didn’t stay in that Book Club long.

I do make an effort to read novels in other languages, but of course I’m still missing so much of the good literature that’s out there this way. I think it’s important that as many good novels as possible are translated into English and find their way into that (large) market. That’s why I was so happy to learn about the EBRD Prize for Literature, sponsored by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

The prize is awarded to a novel originally written in another language and translated into English. The first year’s short list has been announced.

There are lots of Balkan entries here, which I look forward to reading. Of the six, I’m already familiar with the Albanian author Ismail Kadare and Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk – but the rest are all new to me. Looking forward to new discoveries (for me). Another nice aspect of this prize is that the award is divided by the author and his or her translator.

We’ll know the winner in April. Until then, I have some reading to do.


  1. locksleyu on February 17, 2018 at 12:14 am

    Wow, a book club that said they “never” read translated fiction! That’s hard to believe.

    Actually, the other day read a statistic that the literature translated into English is less than 1% of the total. Apparently there is more translations of literature between other language pairs.

    I noticed there was no Japanese translated literature in the short list. I hope you can try out some of that since Japanese literature has a lot to offer.

    But I admit I am biased, I am a translator and just recently published two books of classic SF from Japanese. Check out my blog if interested. (I hope you’ll forgive the blatant advertisement (: )

    • kimberlysullivan on February 25, 2018 at 10:45 pm

      Agree there are many interesting Japanese authors right now, but the EBRD chose from countries with which they work. Always happy to hear from literary translators. A very worthy (and extremely difficult) profession…

  2. urlphantomhive on August 28, 2020 at 7:47 am

    Sorry for bringing up such an old post, but I happened to stumble upon it, and I was kind of in shock at the statement from the book club. What a narrow point of view! Well, I would say it’s their loss since there is a whole world out there to be discovered!

    As someone from a non-English speaking country I grew up reading a lot of translated fiction. Of course, now I read a lot of books in English and I know some things might get lost in translation, but I still enjoy them a lot and am always on the lookout for good translated works.

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