Translating a book is arduous and notoriously low-paid work. It's a labor of love for most. With a few blockbuster exceptions (think Gabriel García Márquez or Haruki Murakami) publishers don't make much, if any money from the translated titles they offer. That's one reason why just 3% of the books published in the U.S. are works of translation.
Finding works from certain countries is all but impossible, as one British blogger discovered in 2012 during a project to read literature from 196 countries -- there are many countries and languages, in fact, whose greatest works have never been translated into English.
So the Best Translated Book Awards, organized by the University of Rochester, are especially sweet for the people who translate and publish such works. The 20 finalists include multiple works published by New Directions, the Brooklyn-based nonprofit publisher Archipelago Books, and Zephyr Press of Brookline, Mass.
The 10 finalists in fiction are:
"Horses of God" by Mahi Binebine, translated from the French by Lulu Norman (Morocco; Tin House)
"Blinding" by Mircea Cartarescu, translated from the Romanian by Sean Cotter (Romania; Archipelago Books)
"The Story of a New Name" by Elena Ferrante, translated from the Italian by Ann Goldstein (Italy; Europa Editions)
"Tirza" by Arnon Grunberg, translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett (Netherlands; Open Letter Books)
"My Struggle: Book Two" by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated from the Norwegian by Don Bartlett (Norway; Archipelago Books)
"Seiobo There Below" by László Krasznahorkai, translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet (Hungary; New Directions)
"A True Novel" by Minae Mizumura, translated from the Japanese by Juliet Winters (Japan; Other Press)
"The African Shore" by Rodrigo Rey Rosa, translated from the Spanish by Jeffrey Gray (Guatemala; Yale University Press)
"Leg Over Leg Vol. 1" by Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, translated from the Arabic by Humphrey Davies (Lebanon; New York University Press)
"The Forbidden Kingdom" by Jan Jacob Slauerhoff, translated from the Dutch by Paul Vincent (Netherlands; Pushkin Press)