ALTA Names Its 2020 National Translation Awards Shortlists

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With the winners to be named during Frankfurter Buchmesse, the National Translation Awards shortlists include work from Italian, Russian, Chinese, Greek, Korean, Spanish, and Malay.

Image – iStockphoto: FinWal

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

Nine Languages in Play, in Prose and Poetry
As you’ll remember, the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) announced its National Translation Awards longlists early this month. Those longlists including titles by writers working in 13 languages.

The organization today (September 30) is announcing its shortlists for its 22nd annual round of honors. This more selective field features work in nine languages.

The program awards a prize for prose and one for poetry.

Winners in the two categories will receive US$2,500 each, and the announcement of their success is to be made on October 15, during Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 14 to 18), as it happens. Like much of Frankfurt’s trade show programming, the translators’ association’s 43rd conference this year is being developed as a digital event, in this case on the Crowdcast platform with its landing page here..

A PDF guide is available to all the titles in the 2020 ALTA Awards program

The conference its runs September 30 to October 18. Titled “In Between”—the meaning of which needs no translation for anyone aware of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic—the program features both Zoom and Crowdcast elements. You can learn more about it here (PDF).

Registration for the winners’ announcements is available now for the National Translation Awards in prose here, and in poetry here.

Jurors in prose this year are Amaia Gabantxo, Emmanuel D. Harris II, and William Maynard Hutchins.

This year’s judges for poetry are Ilya Kaminsky, Lisa Katz, and Farid Matuk.

National Translation Award in Prose 2020 Shortlist
  • Beyond Babylon by Igiaba Scego, translated from the Italian by Aaron Robertson (Two Lines Press)
  • The Cheffe by Marie Ndiaye, translated from the French by Jordan Stump (Alfred A. Knopf)
  • A Couple of Soles by Li Yu, translated from the Chinese by Jing Shen and Robert E. Hegel (Columbia University Press)
  • God’s Wife by Amanda Michalopoulou, translated from the Greek (modern) by Patricia Felisa Barbeito (Dalkey Archive Press)
  • Optic Nerve by María Gainza, translated from the Spanish by Thomas Bunstead (Catapult)
  • Zuleikha by Guzel Yakhina, translated from the Russian by Lisa C. Hayden (Oneworld)
National Translation Award in Poetry 2020 Longlist
  • The Battle Between the Frogs and the Mice: A Tiny Homeric Epic by an unknown author, translated from the Greek by A.E. Stallings (Paul Dry Books)
  • Hysteria by Kim Yideum, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, Soeun Seo, Hedgie Choi (Action Books)
  • The Last Innocence/The Lost Adventures by Alejandra Pizarnik, translated from the Spanish by Cecilia Rossi (Ugly Duckling Presse)
  • Room in Rome by Jorge Eduardo Eielson, translated from the Spanish by David Shook (Cardboard House Press)
  • Tell Me, Kenyalang by Kulleh Grasi, translated from the Malay by Pauline Fan (Circumference Books)
  • The Winter Garden Photograph by Reina María Rodríguez, translated from the Spanish by Kristin Dykstra with Nancy Gates Madsen (Ugly Duckling Presse)

You can learn more and read jurors’ commentary on this year’s titles here.

Publishing Perspectives readers familiar with our coverage of the program will remember that these awards are rightly touted as the United States market’s “only national award for translated fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction that includes a rigorous examination of both the source text and its relation to the finished English work.”

These are people who can read both an original text and the its English translation. So—as is not the case in some programs that handle translated material—they can tell just how faithful, or not, a translation may be. Translators do not easily fool other translators. Thus, there’s more than one criterion at work here: Both the quality of the finished English-language book is under scrutiny, and so is the actual quality of the translation when examined by ALTA’s jurors.


More from Publishing Perspectives on translation is here, and more from us on publishing and book awards is here. More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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