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PEN Translation Fund Grant Announces 11 Recipients for 2011

From the press release:

“The Translation Fund, with Amazon’s support, continues to do its extraordinary work, work that is at the core of PEN’s mission: bringing American readers and writers closer to the literary worlds of every people. We should all be grateful for the committee’s dedication, their hard work and their many successes.”
—Anthony Kwame Appiah, President, PEN American Center

“Every year the PEN Translation Fund is unpredictable and surprising, springing from the originality of the projects proposed and the quality of the translations. This list highlights how deeply the Fund is invested in promoting freedom of expression for writers throughout the world by helping to make their works available in English.”
—Michael F. Moore, Chair of the Advisory Board of the PEN Translation Fund

New York City, July 14, 2011 — The PEN Translation Fund, now celebrating its eighth year, is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s competition. From a field of more than 130 applicants, the Fund’s Advisory Board — David Bellos, Susan Bernofsky, Edwin Frank, Michael Reynolds, Natasha Wimmer, and Jeffrey Yang, and chaired by Michael F. Moore — has selected the following 11 projects for funding:

Amiri Ayanna for The St. Katharinental Sister Book: Lives of the Sisters of the Dominican Convent at Diessenhofen. A rare glimpse inside a holy community, The St. Katharinental Sister Book offers an intimate blend of biography, mystical poetry, and visionary literature. This masterful translation from Northeastern Swiss dialects of Middle High German is a rich compilation of pious testimonials that illuminate the lives of a medieval sisterhood. (Available for publication.)

Neil Blackadder for The Test (Good Simon Korach), a play by renowned Swiss dramatist and novelist Lukas Bärfus. The shocking results of a paternity test and its moral implications force an agonizing examination into what defines a family. Supple and incisive, The Test is one of Bärfus’s most successful plays, and has been staged at major theaters across Germany. (Available for publication.)

Clarissa Bosford for Sworn Virgin, a novel written in Italian by Albanian writer and filmmaker Elvira Dones. At once sweeping and immediate, Sworn Virgin engages with timely issues of identity, nationality, and sexuality. By rejecting an arranged marriage, Hana, the protagonist, is condemned to life in a double-bind: in the isolation of northern Albania and disguised as a man. Her decision to abandon her homeland for the United States coincides with a return to living as a woman that proves anything but simple. (Available for publication.)

Steve Bradbury for Salsa, a collection of poems by the internationally-recognized Taiwanese poet Hsia Yü. Composed during the eight years Hsia lived in France, and regarded by many as her most important work to date, Salsa showcases Hsia’s fascination with sound, movement, and “the erotics of reading.” Bradbury’s translation captures Hsia’s distinct musicality, preserving the liveliness and ingenuity of her verse. (Available for publication.)

Annmarie S. Drury for a collection of poems by Tanzanian poet Euphrase Kezilahabi, an acclaimed Swahili writer whose work is only now becoming more widely available to other readers. Saturated with vivid imagery, Kezilahabi’s poems reinvigorate traditional forms by introducing everyday language and free verse. An active promoter of accessibility, Kezilahabi’s work also offers a subtle social critique of the way language is used by those in power. (Available for publication.)

Diane Nemec Ignashev for Paranoia, a novelby groundbreaking Belarusian author Viktor Martinovich, about a tragic love affair between an idealistic young writer and the captivating mistress of the chief state security officer. Banned in Martinovich’s home country, Paranoia is a wry, dystopian examination of the ruptures between fiction and reality. (To be published by Northwestern University Press.)

Chenxin Jiang for Memories of the Cowshed, a memoir by celebrated Chinese author Ji Xianlin. A rare personal history from China’s devastating Cultural Revolution, Ji’s memoir recounts the painful and deeply disenchanting period he spent in “the cowshed,” an improvised prison for intellectuals and other alleged enemies of the Chinese state. A bestseller in China, Memories of the Cowshed offers an essential window onto this tumultuous moment in history. (Available for publication.)

Hilary B. Kaplan for Rilke Shake by the inventive Brazilian writer Angélica Freitas. Rilke Shake is a milkshake of incisive poetic wordplay and irreverent culture-crossing slang, expertly conveyed by Kaplan’s sharp translation. In this collection, Freitas explores poetic and personal identity formation, influencing a new generation of writers and artists who blend cultures and nationalities. (Available for publication.)

Catherine Schelbert for Flametti, or the Dandyism of the Poor a novel by visionary German writer Hugo Ball. This romp through early 20th-century Swiss low society offers an acerbic picture of class tensions and debasing social conditions. Ball, one of the leading Dadaists, said of Flametti, “It contains my whole philosophy.” Schelbert’s compelling translation — the first into English — is long overdue, and offers readers an essential work in the Ball oeuvre. (Available for publication.)

Joel Streicker for Birds in the Mouth, a collection of short stories by up-and-coming Argentine writer Samanta Schweblin, who was named one of Granta’s 2010 Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists. With Birds in the Mouth, Schweblin stakes a claim on the dark frontier between realism and the fantastic, reanimating everyday experiences often taken for granted. Streicker’s outstanding translation makes this stunning collection — already translated into many other languages — available to English readers for the first time. (Available for publication.)

Sarah L. Thomas for Turnaround, a literary thriller by pioneering Spanish writer Mar Goméz Glez. Published to great acclaim in Spain, Turnaround is set during the environmental crisis following a 2002 oil spill off the Cantabrian coast of Spain. Glez’s suspenseful story tracks the erratic fortunes of Pablo, who is trying to untangle his memories of a traumatic event while searching for his missing girlfriend. Thomas’s translation brings to life a story of how individual and collective destiny can converge and diverge in unexpected ways. (Available for publication.)

Each of the translators will receive a $3,000 grant toward the completion of his or her project. Publishers and editors who wish to express an interest in any of these projects are invited to contact Alena Graedon (alena@pen.org) or Michael Moore (michaelfmoore@gmail.com).

The Fund gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of Amazon.com, which has assisted the Fund’s work this year with a gift of $25,000.

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