The best way to get the American public to pay attention to literature in translation is the publishing event, as the Roberto Bolano and Stieg Larsson estates testify. (Alternately: complain, loudly, about the American public's indifference to literature in translation.) What, then, of a small press like Dalkey Archive, with its focus on no-name fiction in translation? Best European Fiction 2010, the first edition of a planned annual anthology of previously untranslated recent work, certainly feels eventful. Dalkey provided editor Aleksandar Hemon with a shortlist of stories translated with the assistance of government arts councils, from which he winnowed the 35 you see before you. (If translation is a political act, as Hemon suggests, then one of the political statements made here has to do with the importance of state support for the arts in an apathetic marketplace.)
The democratic sampling, granting represented countries a story apiece, is more Senate than House. Though Hemon claims that the stories "have not been selected for any kind of thematic continuity," he identifies a tendency, also present in his own fiction, to testing the porousness of certain borders—appropriate, given the project. Aside from linguistic interrelation—German and French are spoken widely, but multilingual nation-states are also honored, Castillans and Catalans, the Flemish and Walloons all telling their own stories—faded imperial footprints and current trade routes are traceable. Immigration is a concern (in "Didi," Poland's Michal Witkowski offers a vivid account of a Slovak rent boy in Vienna); cultural exchange is assumed (in the authors' personal statements, literary history is as influential as local tradition, so that Iceland's Steinar Bragi submits a piece called "Thomas Mann's Bowels"); and style is unfixed. Genre shapeshifts, from Albanian Ornela Vorpsi's sharply repurposed folktale, to Spaniard Julian Rios's Borgesian talespin, to Russian Victor Pelevin's sci-fi parable and, a personal favorite, Antonio Fian's dream-journal flash fictions, straight from the heart of Freud country.