ALTA’s 2021 National Translation Awards: Shortlists in Prose and Poetry

In Feature Articles by Porter Anderson

The 2021 shortlists in the National Translation Awards include work translated from Spanish, French, Arabic, Kannada, Bengali, Chinese, Italian, Croatian, Tamazight, Korean, and Old English.

Image – Getty iStockphoto: Semih Akgul

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

See also:
International Translation Day: A Call to ‘Name Translators on the Cover’
The UK’s National Centre for Writing Announces Translation Mentorships

On the Jury: Jennifer Croft
One of the distinctions of the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) National Translation Awards is that they’re juried by people who can read both an original text and its English translation.

So they can tell just how effective, or not, a translation may be. This creates more than one criterion. The quality of the finished English-language book is under scrutiny, and so is the actual translation when examined by ALTA’s jurors.

Announced on Thursday, this set of shortlists arrived on what turned out to be an eventful International Translation Day, with the Society of Authors leading the way on a new and potentially pivotal campaign to have publishers name #TranslatorsOnTheCover.

As Publishing Perspectives has reported, the United States’ Authors Guild quickly backed the program, which calls for authors to commit to asking their publishers to ensure—”in contracts and communications”—that whenever their work is translated, the name of the translator(s) will appear on the front cover of the book.”

At this writing, the open letter has more than 1,500 signatories.

And as it has happened, the National Translation Awards’ prose jury includes Jennifer Croft, who with the English author Mark Haddon has spearheaded the #TranslatorsOnTheCover campaign. Croft is joined by Anton Hur—one of the mentor-translators in the UK’s National Centre for Writing’s newly announced mentorships—and Annie Janusch.

The jurors for the poetry side of the National Translation Awards are Sinan Antoon, Layla Benitez-James, and Sibelan Forrester.

Winning translators in prose and poetry each get Us$2,500, and announcements are made at the association’s annual conference in a digital awards presentation, October 16 at 5 p.m. Pacific Time / 8 p.m. ET / 00:00 GMT October 17 / 1 a.m. BST October 17.

This year, the conference ALTA44 is themed “Inflection Points” and is held in two separate parts: A digital edition runs 15 to 17, and an in-person edition is to be held in Tucson, November 11 to 13.

  • You can find information relative to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic guidelines for the in-person conference here.
  • And registration information for ALTA44 is here.

Because our publication schedules around the United States’ Labor Day observances prevented our announcement of the National Translation Award longlists in prose and poetry, we’ll add the titles that filled out the longlists, as well.

What’s great to see, in the total 24 titles listed between the two longlists, is such a broad range of publishers and presses. Those appearing with more than one longlisted or shortlisted title are Amazon Crossing, Archipelago Books, and Yale University Press.

Similarly, the range of languages translated to English here is bracing, and indeed we should say to modern English: one of the shortlisted works in poetry, the Beowulf translated by Maria Dahvana Headley, is from Old English.

And the prose shortlist includes Michael Cooperson’s translation from Arabic of Maqamat Al-Harīrī, discussed last week in an International Publishers Association panel on International Translation Day with the translator a part of the discussion. Impostures: Fifty Rogue’s Tales Translated Fifty Ways won the 2021 Sheikh Zayed Book Award in the translation category, was named one of the Top 10 books of the year at the Wall Street Journal, and was named a finalist in the literature category of the American Association of Publishers’ PROSE Awards.

National Translation Prize in Prose: 2021 Shortlist


Title Author Translator Publisher
Difficult Light Tomás González Translated from Spanish by Andrea Rosenberg Archipelago Books
Humus Fabienne Kanor Translated from French by Lynn E. Palermo University of Virginia Press
Impostures: Fifty Rogue’s Tales Translated Fifty Ways Maqamat Al-Ḥarīrī Translated from Arabic by Michael Cooperson NYU Press/Library of Arabic Literature
No Presents Please: Mumbai Stories Jayant Kaikini Translated from Kannada by Tejaswini Niranjana Catapult
Shameless Taslima Nasreen Translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha HarperCollins India
Stories of the Sahara Sanmao Translated from Chinese by Mike Fu Bloomsbury Publishing

 Additional Titles from the 2021 Prose Longlist

Title Author Translator Publisher
Amora: Stories Natalia Borges Polesso Translated from Portuguese by Julia Sanches Amazon Crossing
Breasts and Eggs Mieko Kawakami Translated from Japanese by Sam Bett and David Boyd Europa Editions
I Live in the Slums Can Xue Translated from Chinese by Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping Yale University Press
The King of Warsaw Szczepan Twardoch Translated from Kannada by Sean Gasper Bye Amazon Crossing
The Other Name: Septology I-II Jon Fosse Translated from Norwegian by Damion Searls Transit Books
Stories for the Years Luigi Pirandello Translated from Italian by Virginia Jewiss Yale University Press
National Translation Prize in Poetry: 2021 Shortlist


Title Author Translator Publisher
Allegria Giuseppe Ungaretti Translated from Italian by Geoffrey Brock Archipelago Books
Beowulf Unknown Translated from Old English by Maria Dahvana Headley Farrar, Straus & Giroux / MCD Books
Dead Letter Office: Selected Poems Marko Pogačar Translated from Croatian by Andrea Jurjević The Word Works
The Olive Trees’ Jazz and Other Poems Samira Negrouche Translated from French by Marilyn Hacker Pleiades Press
Poetic Justice: An Anthology of Contemporary Moroccan Poetry Various authors Translated from Arabic, French, and Tamazight by Deborah Kapchan with Driss Marjane Center for Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas Austin
Unexpected Vanilla Lee Hyemi Translated from Korean by So J. Lee Tilted Axis Press

 Additional Titles from the 2021 Poetry Longlist

Title Author Translator Publisher
Afro-Creole Poetry in French from Louisiana’s Radical Civil War-Era Newspapers: A Bilingual Edition Various authors Translated from French by Clint Bruce Historic New Orleans Collection
Agadir Mohammed Khaïr Translated from French by Pierre Joris and Jake Syersak Diálogos
I Am a Field Full of Rapeseed, Give Cover to Deer and Shine Like Thirteen Oil Paintings Laid One on Top of the Other Ulrike Almut Sandig Translated from German by Karen Leeder Seagull Books
My Name Will Grow Wide Like a Tree: Selected Poems Yi Lei Translated from Chinese by Tracy K. Smith and Changtai Bi Graywolf Press
Phone Bells Keep Ringing for Me Choi Seungja Translated from Korean by Won-Chung Kim and Cathy Park Hong Action Books
The Selected Poems of Tu Fu Tu Fu Translated from Chinese by David Hinton New Directions


More from Publishing Perspectives on translation is here, more from us on the American Literary Translators Association is here, and more from us on publishing and book awards is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of the International Publishers Association.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here

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 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.