British Translator-Author Daniel Hahn To Receive the Ottaway Award

In News by Porter Anderson

Praised for his engagement in the profession and promotion of translation, Daniel Hahn is Words Without Borders’ 2023 Ottaway laureate.

Daniel Hahn. Image: John Lawrence

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

Honoring Hahn’s ‘Lasting Impact on the Sector’
Close on the heels of our coverage of Daniel Hahn‘s his new ‘SALT’ project for the translation of South Asian literature—that project based at the University of Chicago with Jason Grunebaum—we learn now that Hahn has been named by Words Without Borders the 2023 winner of the Ottaway Award for the Promotion of International Literature.

The honor will be presented to Hahn by the writer and translator Esther Allen on June 13 at a private program in New York City, and Words Without Borders will have a recording of the event on its newly redesigned site.

Our readers who are headed for the industry-facing London Book Fair next week (April 18 to 20) will have noted that Hahn is featured in several events during the week. For example, he speaks twice in the Literary Translation Center on April 19.

At 10 a.m., in Literary Translations: From 3 Percent to 6 Percent–and Now What?, Hahn chairs a discussion on the limited “6-percent” success that translation sales in Britain have had by comparison to other markets in Europe, where consumers may buy translations at a rate of as much as five times that. With Hahn in that discussion will be:

  • Translator Carlota Gurt
  • Translator Peter Bush
  • Penguin Classics commissioning editor Ka Bradley

Translated by Daniel Hahn

And at 1:15 p.m., Hahn will chair another conversation, one with the agreeable title Money, Money, Money. That one is actually the first half of a two-parter, examining the fact that “Most people in the sector would agree in the abstract that translators should be better paid, but where does and/or should the money come from?” And joining him in that event are:

  • MacLehose Press publisher Katharina Bielenberg
  • Charco Press publisher Samuel McDowell
  • Penguin Random House / Harvill Secker senior editor Ellie Steel
‘To Advance the Field’

In the announcement of his designation as this year’s Ottaway Award-winner, Words Without Borders writes, “The Ottaway Award honors Daniel Hahn’s work to advance the field of literary translation. Through his participation in dozens of strategic initiatives, Hahn has made a lasting impact on the sector by offering support, training, and visibility to translators; creating incentives and opportunities for publishers; and raising awareness of literary translation.”

Samantha Schnee

In a comment on the news of Hahn’s selection, Samantha Schnee, who chairs the board of Words Without Borders, says, “I can think of no individual who has made as big an impact in the literary translation field in as little time as Danny Hahn.”

And what Schnee is referring to is the way Hahn embodies the concept of community in literary criticism—something that sets the profession apart from many others in its generosity and frequently non-competitive spirit.

Hahn, for example, in July 2017, used cash from his win of the International Dublin Award to create a new prize for emerging translators and their frequently overlooked editors. Named the TA First Translation Prize (“TA” for the United Kingdom’s Translators Association), the award is administered by the Society of Authors.

Written by Daniel Hahn

Well before that, in 2010, he’d established the National Centre for Writing’s Emerging Translator Mentorships program.

Hahn’s Catching Fire: A Translation Diary (Charco Press, 2022) is a study of his process and perspective on translating the Chilean author Diamela Eltit’s Never Did the Fire (also Charco, 2022).

Those are two of what the Ottaway messaging says add up to “nearly 100 titles to his name, many of which have led to earlier accolades, including (and in addition to the Dublin award) the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the Blue Peter Book Award, and a shortlisting in the International Booker Prize program for his translation of José Eduardo Agualusa’s A General Theory of Oblivion (Penguin Random House / Harvill Secker, 2016.

The Ottaway Award, you’ll recall, is named in honor of Words Without Borders’ first chair, Jim Ottaway Jr.

Translated by Daniel Hahn

It recognizes a person “whose work and activism have supported Words Without Borders’ mission of promoting cultural understanding through the publication and promotion of international literature. Past awardees include:

Hahn is the second literary translator and first Briton to receive the award.


More from Publishing Perspectives on Words Without Borders is here, more from us on translation and translators is here, more on the work of Daniel Hahn is here, more on the London Book Fair is here, more on the United Kingdom’s publishing market is here, and more on publishing and book awards 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.com, 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.