Von Rezzori Novel Wins Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize

In German Buch News by Dennis Abrams

By Dennis Abrams

An Ermine in CzernopolAdministered by the Goethe-Institut Chicago, and funded by the German government, The Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize is given each year to honor an outstanding literary translation from German into English published in the United States the previous year.

This year’s winner, selected by a five-member jury, was Phillip Boehm, for his translation of Gregor von Rezzori’s An Ermine in Czernopol (New York Review of Books), originally published in 1958 as Ein Hermelin in Tschernopol.

In its announcement of its award to Boehm, the jury said:

“There are realities besides and beyond our own, which is the only one we know, and therefore the only one we think exists.” Thus begins Gregor von Rezzori’s novel “An Ermine in Czernopol,” his brilliant evocation of a city where Romanians, Ukrainians, Hungarians, Armenians, ethnic Germans, exile Russians, Jews, Gypsies, and others rub shoulders in uneasy coexistence following the first World War. Philip Boehm’s virtuoso translation captures both the stylistic pyrotechnics of Rezzori’s digressive and often hilarious prose as well as the spiritual turmoil that lies just below its surface. Through the naïve yet knowing childhood ears and eyes of the narrator, we listen to a babel of ethnic voices and watch as disaster unfolds in slow motion. With this translation, rich in alliteration, assonance, elaborate sentence structure, and changing rhythms, Philip Boehm makes another masterpiece by the author of ‘Memoirs of an Anti-Semite’ vividly available to English speaking readers.

Honorable Mention will be given to Donald O. White for his translation of A.V. Thelen’s The Island of Second Sight (Overlook Press). In its announcement, the jury said:

Donald O. White, with his translation of Albert Vigoleis Thelen’s ‘The Island of Second Sight,” has recovered for readers of English a work of grand proportions and manifest virtuosity. White is particularly successful in capturing and sustaining the language of Thelen’s wry, irreverent, penetrating and hedonistic humor, whether in the narrator’s voice of the many voices of his variegated cast of characters. This is a major effort for a landmark work of the mid-twentieth century.

The prizes will be presented on Monday, June 3, 2013 at Chicago’s Fine Arts Building. For further information or to make reservations, email info@chicago.goethe.org

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.