Seven Shortlists for the UK’s Society of Authors Translation Prizes

In News by Porter Anderson

The 2019 cycle of seven prizes in translation administered by the UK’s Society of Authors names its shortlists.

At the British Library where winners of the seven translation prizes will be honored on Febraury 13. Image – iStockphoto: Purplexsu

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Prize Founder Hahn: Juror and Shortlistee
In its media messaging for the 2018 round of translation prizes, the UK’s Society of Authors announced its seven shortlists, comprising 31 titles translated into English from seven languages: Korean, Italian, German, French, Swedish, Spanish, and Arabic.

The winners of this cycle of various translation prizes are to be honored on February 18 in an event at the British Library’s Knowledge Centre. A total £15,000 (US$19,346) in awards money will be distributed in these various honors.

In an interesting point of visibility for translators and translated literature, this is the first time, the society says, that it has announced shortlists. It’s doing so, it says, “with the aim of sharing more of the exceptional works the judges have read this year.”

Publishing Perspectives readers will remember that the TA First Translation Prize established by translator Daniel Hahn is among these awards, and this is the second year it’s being conferred. It remains unique for dividing its winnings between a translator and her or his editor.

Hahn, as it happens, is himself shortlisted this year for another prize, the Premio Valle Inclán. We’ll begin with the prize Hahn founded.

TA First Translation Prize Shortlist

This award splits £2,000 ($US2,580) between a translator and his or her editor. Jurors for this prize this year are award founder are Daniel Hahn with Philip Gwyn Jones and Margaret Jull Costa.

  • Gini Alhadeff and her editor Barbara Epler for a translation of I Am the Brother of XX by Fleur Jaeggy  (And Other Stories). Translated from Italian. Jurors say: “Fleur Jaeggy’s prose is so precise, with every word chosen to cutting effect, and Gini Alhadeff perfectly captures that same incisive precision.”
  • Janet Hong and her editor Ethan Nosowsky for a translation of The Impossible Fairytale by Han Yujoo (Tilted Axis Press). Translated from Korean. Jurors: “A real tour-de-force of a translation, although it feels as if it had required no effort at all. Even the wordplay seems effortlessly English.”
  • Fionn Petch and his editor Annie McDermott for a translation of Fireflies (Charco Press). Translated from Spanish. Jurors: “Translator Fionn Petch gives us Sagasti in a voice that is just as erudite, meditative and beautifully poetic as it needs to be but conveyed with absolutely readable clarity, too – a lot harder to do than it looks.”
  • Alex Valente and his editor Federico Andornino for a translation of Can You Hear Me? (Two Roads Books). Translated from Italian. Jurors: “It is probably the hardest trick of all for a translator to sustain fluency, clarity and pace in plate-glass prose across a story whose twin engines are event and character. Alex Valente does all that and more.”

The prize has sponsorship both from Hahn and from the British Council.

The John Florio Prize Shortlist

The Florio is a biennial award of £2,000 ($US2,580) for translations into English of full- length Italian works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Marta Arnaldi and Professor Ann Hallamore Caesar.

  • Gini Alhadeff for her translation of I Am the Brother of XX by Fleur Jaeggy (And Other Stories). Jurors say: “Gini Alhadeff’s masterful translation equals, and sometimes even surpasses, this twenty-first century Italian classic. It captures the music of its terrestrial spheres, showing that translation is, in fact, our universal language.”
  • Jamie McKendrick for his translation of Within the Walls by Giorgio Bassani (Penguin Classics). Jurors: “By connecting with Bassani’s souls, and sometimes by even becoming one (or all) of them, McKendrick brings to life – anew – the miracle of translation.”
  • Mario Petrucci for his translation of Xenia by Eugenio Montale (Arc Publications). Jurors: “This translation succeeds brilliantly in capturing the originality, musicality, and intellectuality of Montale’s profound response to experience and loss.”
  • Cristina Viti for her translation of Stigmata by Gëzim Hajdari (Shearsman Books). Jurors: “This superb translation by Cristina Viti captures the lyricism and eloquence with which Gëzim Hadjari, a leading voice among migrant writers in Italy, writes of exile, displacement and belonging, in a collection of poetry that is both epic and lyrical.”
  • Cristina Viti for her translation of The World Saved by Kids by Elsa Morante (Seagull Books). Jurors: “By reflecting the myriad of lights contained in Morante’s unattainable prism, Cristina Viti’s translation is an essential lesson on the virtue of impossibility. It invites us to rethink what translation is and does, especially when it seems an unimaginable task to complete.”

The John Florio Prize has sponsorship from the Italian Cultural Institute, ALCS, and the Society of Authors.

The Schlegel-Tieck Prize Shortlist

The Schlegel-Tieck is an annual award of £3,000 (US$3,872) for translations into English of full- length German works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Dr. Benedict Schofield and Dr. Catherine Smale.

  • Susan Bernofsky for her translation of Go, Went, Gone by Jenny Erpenbeck (Granta). Jurors say: “This remarkable and timely novel explores one of the greatest issues facing Europe today and Erpenbeck’s lyrical and richly crafted prose style is exquisitely captured in this translation by Susan Bernofsky.”
  • Jen Calleja for her translation of Dance by the Canal by Kerstin Hensel (Peirene Press). Jurors: “Calleja’s translation carries over the metaphorical and linguistic complexity of the original German in a rich, vibrant and striking translation that is hard to put down.”
  • Tony Crawford for his translation of Wonder Beyond Belief by Navid Kermani (Polity Press). Jurors: “Tony Crawford’s outstanding translation of Navid Kermani’s Wonder Beyond Belief will play a crucial role in bringing Kermani’s voice to a new and wider readership.”
  • Tess Lewis for her translation of Kruso by Lutz Seiler (Scribe). Jurors: “Tess Lewis’ translation is absorbingly readable; she is closely attuned to the lyricism of Seiler’s prose and deftly conveys its fantastical, mesmeric quality.”
  • Stefan Tobler for his translation of The Old King in his Exile by Arno Geiger (And Other Stories). Jurors: “Tobler’s translation is calm and considered and gives priority to showcasing the moving voices of father and son as they are drawn back together in memories, just as memory is being lost.”
  • Jen Calleja for her translation of Dance by the Canal by Kerstin Hensel (Peirene Press). Jurors: “Calleja’s translation carries over the metaphorical and linguistic complexity of the original German in a rich, vibrant and striking translation that is hard to put down.”
  • Tony Crawford for his translation of Wonder Beyond Belief by Navid Kermani (Polity Press). Jurors: “Tony Crawford’s outstanding translation of Navid Kermani’s Wonder Beyond Belief will play a crucial role in bringing Kermani’s voice to a new and wider readership.”

Sponsorship for this award is from the Goethe-Institut.

The Scott Moncrieff Prize Shortlist

The Moncreiff pays £1,000 (US$1,292) for translations into English of full-length French works. Jurors this year are Ruth Cruickshank and Michèle Roberts.

  • Aneesa Abbas Higgins for her translation of Seven Stones by Vénus Khoury-Ghata (Jacaranda Books). Jurors say: “Aneesa Abbas Higgins rises to the challenge of rendering contrasting facets of postcolonial otherness and oppression and austerity of expression in Vénus Khoury-Ghata’s novel.”
  • Sophie Lewis for her translation of Blue Self-Portrait by Noémi Lefebvre (Les Fugitives). Jurors: “Sophie Lewis’ translation artfully renders the syntactical and lexical syncopations that Noémi Lefebvre deploys to evoke – and destabilize – the temporal and geographical moorings in her narrative counterpoint.”
  • Helen Stevenson for her translation of Black Moses by Alain Mabanckou (Profile Books). Jurors: “Helen Stevenson’s translation is exhilarating and impressive, capturing all the vitality of the original and drawing out all its layers of jokes and puns, different cultural references and registers, all the battles for meaning that lie under its witty surface.”
  • Frank Wynne for his translation of Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes (MacLehose Press). Jurors: “Frank Wynne deftly negotiates the shifting energies of this novel as well as its network of references to more-or-less hermetically culturally- and temporally-specific layers of popular culture.”
  • Sophie Yanow for her translation of Pretending is Lying by Dominique Goblet (New York Review Comics). Jurors: “Beautifully drawn, subtly translated, this is a shocking and moving story about pain and change.”

The Moncrieff Prize has sponsorship from the Institut français du Royaume-Uni, ALCS and the Society of Authors.

The Bernard Shaw Prize

The GBS award is triennial and carries a purse of £2,000 ($US2,580) for translations into English of full-length Swedish language works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Karin Altenberg and Helen Sigeland.

  • Deborah Bragan-Turner for her translation of The Parable Book by Per Olov Enquist (MacLehose Press). Jurors say: “This striking translation leads us through the forests and along the shores of lake Hjoggböle, just south of the Arctic Circle. It captures the colloquial tone in a tale of love and death in that place, merged with the language of parable.”
  • Sarah Death for her translation of Wilful Disregard by Lena Andersson (Picador). Jurors: “The raw emotional landscape of the protagonist Ester is faithfully drawn in this expert translation that finds the right word for every cringing, shameful moment of this story.”
  • John Irons for his translation of Selected Poems by Lars Gustafsson (Bloodaxe Books). Jurors: “This is an accurate and faithful rendering of the sweeping and distinctly ingenious work of a great writer.”
  • Frank Perry for his translation of Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs by Lina Wolff (And Other Stories). Jurors: “In this unconventional novel, which consists of stories within stories, each with their own tone, details are just as important as the narrative. Frank Perry’s translation is characterized by clarity and sharpness without overlooking the humorous passages.”

The Shaw award is sponsored by the embassy of Sweden and the Anglo-Swedish Literary Foundation.

The Premio Valle Inclán Prize Shortlist

This is an annual prize carrying £2,000 ($US2,580) for translations into English of full-length Spanish-language works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Katie Brown and Professor Francis Lough.

  • Simon Deefholts and Kathryn Phillips-Miles for their translation of Inventing Love by José Ovejero (Peter Owen Publishers). Jurors say: “The translation is faithful to the original Spanish and achieves a natural fluency and tone which makes it possible to engage with a narrator whose attitudes and decisions are not always commendable.”
  • Daniel Hahn for his translation of In the Land of Giants by Gabi Martínez (Scribe). Jurors: “Much more than just the story of a yeti hunter, In the Land of Giants brings together questions about politics, religion, friendship, loyalty, and what makes a monster, in a faultless translation by Daniel Hahn.”
  • Megan McDowell for her translation of Seeing Red by Lina Meruane (Atlantic). Jurors: “Seeing Red is sometimes difficult to read, as Lina Meruane makes you experience exactly what it would be like to lose your sight, but it is utterly engrossing, with a strain of dark humour captured brilliantly by Megan McDowell.”
  • Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff for their translation of Die, My Love by Ariana Harwicz (Charco Press). Jurors: “A powerful exploration of mental illness and feeling out of place in ‘normal’ life. This short novel is packed with striking imagery, presenting multiple translation challenges with which Sarah Moses and Carolina Orloff deal admirably.”

This prize is sponsored by ALCS and the Society of Authors.

The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize Winner and Shortlist

The Banipal is an annual award of £3,000 (US$3,872) for published translations from Arabic of full-length works of imaginative and creative writing of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Pete Ayrton,Georgia de Chamberet, Fadia Faqir, and Sophia Vasalou.

The winner in this case has been announced, and the prize will be awarded with the others on February 13.

The winner is Luke Leafgren for his translation of The President’s Gardens by Muhsin Al-Ramli (MacLehose Press). Jurors said: “Tender, funny, tragic, wise and poetic, The President’s Gardens is imbued with the richness and complexity of a region that has known so little peace over the last century. The translation reads smoothly and conveys beautifully the spirit and idiosyncrasies of the original.”

This award is sponsored by Omar Saif Ghobash and his family and the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature.

The shortlist, in addition to Leafgren’s book, included:

  • Ben Koerber for his translation of Using Life by Ahmed Naji (CMES Publications). Jurors said: “The narrative is a bid for freedom and an attempt to widen what is possible to think and write. Benjamin Koerber’s translation is fluid and flawless.”
  • Khaled Mattawa for his translation of Concerto al-Quds by Adonis (Yale University Press). Jurors: “Very few translators are brave enough to tackle Adonis’ multifarious poems, but Mattawa rose to the challenge and produced an English translation that captures the beauty, multiplicity and resonances of the original.”
  • Jonathan Wright for his translation of Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi (Oneworld). “Jonathan Wright’s fluid translation of this weird and wonderful magical-realist novel inspired by Mary Shelley’s monster is superb.”

More from Publishing Perspectives on translation is here and on the Society of Authors is here.


About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson is a non-resident fellow of Trends Research & Advisory, and he has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.