10 books named to National Book Awards’ longlist for translated literature


War in the home and war on the state dominate the National Book Foundation’s 2019 Longlist for Translated Literature, a category added in 2018.

The 10 titles (culled from 145 submissions) were originally written in 10 different languages: Arabic, Danish, Finnish, French, Hungarian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese and Spanish. One of the authors, Olga Tokarczuk, was a finalist for the National Book Award for Translated Literature last year.

The list features seven novels, two memoirs and a collection of essays. Notable works include prolific Japanese author Yoko Ogawa’s Orwellian novel “The Memory Police,” translated by Steven Snyder, which has been embraced by American audiences.


Journalist Elaine Brum’s “The Collector of Leftover Souls,” which profiles the lives and conflicts of Brazilians, including the poorest parts of São Paulo and the deep Amazon, is a particularly timely work, considering the recent fires in the rain forest.

Several other books offer prismatic views of global conflict: In the novel “Death Is Hard Work,” Khaled Khalifa (and translator Leri Price) cast a black comedy in war-torn Syria, where the author still lives. Scholastique Mukasonga, who was nominated for the L.A. Times Christopher Isherwood Prize for her 2017 memoir “Cockroaches,” returns with a second memoir, “The Barefoot Woman” which focuses on the loss of her mother and the Rwandan genocide.

The Midwest-based independent publishers, Graywolf Press appears on the list twice, as well as Pantheon Books, a Penguin Random House imprint.

The foundation will announce finalists Oct. 8 and winners at the private National Book Awards ceremony and benefit dinner Nov. 20 in New York City.

Here is the full list:

Naja Marie Aidt, “When Death Takes Something From You Give It Back: Carl’s Book”

Translated by Denise Newman

Coffee House Press

Elaine Brum, “The Collector of Leftover Souls: Field Notes on Brazil’s Everyday Insurrections”

Translated by Diane Grosklaus Whitty

Graywolf Press

Nona Fernández, “Space Invaders”

Translated by Natasha Wimmer

Graywolf Press

Vigdis Hjorth, “Will and Testament”

Translated by Charlotte Barslund

Verso Fiction/ Verso Books

Khaled Khalifa, “Death Is Hard Work”

Translated by Leri Price

Farrar, Straus and Giroux /Macmillan Publishers

László Krasnahorkai, “Baron Wenckheim’s Homecoming”

Translated by Ottilie Mulzet

New Directions

Scholastique Mukasonga, “The Barefoot Woman”

Translated by Jordan Stump

Archipelago Books

Yoko Ogawa, “The Memory Police”

Translated by Stephen Snyder

Pantheon Books / Penguin Random House

Pajtim Statovci, “Crossing”

Translated by David Hackston

Pantheon Books / Penguin Random House

Olga Tokarczuk, “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead”

Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones

Riverhead Books / Penguin Random House

Previously: 2019 Longlist for Young People’s Literature