The National Book Foundation today announced the Longlist for the 2022 National Book Award for Translated Literature. The Finalists in all five categories will be revealed on Tuesday, October 4.
The ten titles on this year’s Translated Literature Longlist were originally written in nine different languages: Arabic, Danish, French, German, Japanese, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, and Spanish. Six honorees have previously been recognized by the National Book Awards. Martin Aitken was a Finalist for Translated Literature in 2018, Jennifer Croft was a Finalist for Translated Literature in 2018, Scholastique Mukasonga was a Finalist for Translated Literature in 2019, Yoko Tawada and Margaret Mitsutani were the Winners of the National Book Award for Translated Literature in 2018, and Olga Tokarczuk was a Finalist for Translated Literature in 2018 and Longlisted in 2019. The authors and translators on the list have been recognized by numerous international prizes, including the Akutagawa Prize, the Prix de la Littérature Arabe, the International Booker Prize, and the PEN Translation Prize. Their work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Granta, Latin American Literature Today, Los Angeles Review of Books, The New Yorker, the New York Times, The Paris Review, and Translation Review, among others.
Three works explore mysticism, mythology, and religion across centuries. Ibn Arabi’s Small Death by Mohammed Hasan Alwan is a first-person fictionalized account of the life of Sufi master, poet, and philosopher Ibn Arabi. Translated from the Arabic by William M. Hutchins, readers follow Ibn Arabi as he travels through 11th and 12th-century Europe, Northern Africa, and the Middle East on a journey of self-discovery that profoundly influenced his future works. Written by Olga Tokarczuk and translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft, The Books of Jacob is an epic tale based on a real historical figure, Jacob Frank, set in the mid-18th century. The arrival of a charming young Jewish man in a Polish village, and his ensuing reinventions of self, attracts enemies and a growing audience that believes him to be the Messiah. Translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti, Scholastique Mukasonga’s Kibogo, named for the legendary son of a king, weaves stories of Rwanda’s core mythologies—those of a country faced with drought, famine, and war—in defiance of the colonialists and Christian missionaries determined to suppress and erase them.
Two Longlisted titles contemplate the impacts of war on individuals, families, and communities. Shahriar Mandanipour’s story collection Seasons of Purgatory, translated from the Persian by Sara Khalili, addresses the cruelties of war through the perspectives of those most affected by the never-ending violence—a soldier reevaluating his role as a nuclear power plant guard, a friendship that is inextricably linked to the horrors of war, and the slow disintegration of an Iraqi corpse wounded in battle. Where You Come From follows a family displaced by the war in Yugoslavia—their lineage, their lives before the conflict, and their attempts to build a future for themselves in Germany. Written by Saša Stanišić and translated from the German by Damion Searls, the novel is a blend of autofiction and fable, set in a village where only thirteen people remain, that blurs the line between truth and memory.
Doppelgängers are a shared thread in the works of Jon Fosse and Mónica Ojeda. Two Catholic high school classmates bond over their mutual love of horror stories and become inseparable, near mirror images of each other in Mónica Ojeda’s Jawbone. Translated from the Spanish by Sarah Booker, the novel draws from the internet horror phenomenon, “creepypastas,” and creates a world where villains and victims become impossible to distinguish. A New Name: Septology VI-VII by John Fosse is the story of two doppelgängers, both painters named Asle living nearly indistinguishable lives. Translated from the Norwegian by Damion Searls, A New Name explores artmaking, friendship, and faith and the final installment of Fosse’s Septology series.
Two inventive novels are set in dystopian futures. In Scattered All Over the Earth, Hiruko is a climate refugee from Japan—a country that, along with her mother tongue, no longer exists—who teaches her invented language to young immigrants in Denmark. This dystopian novel, the first in a planned trilogy by National Book Award Winner Yoko Tawada and translated from the Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani, interrogates the porosity of borders, climate change, language, and forced migration. The Employees by Olga Ravn traces the daily lives of the human and humanoid crew members aboard the Six-Thousand Ship. This 22nd-century workplace novel, translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken, follows the space crew as they become attached to a collection of strange objects from a foreign planet, satirizing late-capitalist productivity and questioning what it means to be human.
Finally, the seven stories in Samanta Schweblin’s collection present seven different empty houses where families are missing people, memories, love, furniture, or intimacy. Seven Empty Houses, translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell, is an exploration of the universal desire for human connection.
Publishers submitted a total of 146 books for the 2022 National Book Award for Translated Literature. The judges for Translated Literature are Nick Buzanski, Veronica Esposito, Ann Goldstein (Chair), Rohan Kamicheril, and Russell Scott Valentino. Judges’ decisions are made independently of the National Book Foundation staff and Board of Directors and deliberations are strictly confidential. Winners in all categories will be announced live at the National Book Awards Ceremony on Wednesday, November 16.
Mohammed Hasan Alwan, Ibn Arabi’s Small Death
Translated from the Arabic by William M. Hutchins
Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin
Jon Fosse, A New Name: Septology VI-VII
Translated from the Norwegian by Damion Searls
Shahriar Mandanipour, Seasons of Purgatory
Translated from the Persian by Sara Khalili
Bellevue Literary Press
Scholastique Mukasonga, Kibogo
Translated from the French by Mark Polizzotti
Mónica Ojeda, Jawbone
Translated from the Spanish by Sarah Booker
Coffee House Press
Olga Ravn, The Employees
Translated from the Danish by Martin Aitken
New Directions Publishing
Samanta Schweblin, Seven Empty Houses
Translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell
Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House
Saša Stanišić, Where You Come From
Translated from the German by Damion Searls
Tin House Books
Yoko Tawada, Scattered All Over the Earth
Translated from the Japanese by Margaret Mitsutani
New Directions Publishing
Olga Tokarczuk, The Books of Jacob
Translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft
Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House