The United States’ ALTA National Translation Awards’ 2023 Winners

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The 25th ALTA National Translation Awards featured works translated to English from Arabic and Vietnamese.

One of two winning translators in the 25th National Translation Awards, Robyn Creswell is the winner in prose for his work with Iman Mersal’s ‘The Threshold.’ The program was held at the American Literary Translators Association’s 2023 conference. Image: ALTA

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

Winners in Prose and Poetry
Continuing to catch up with the many book and publishing awards programs that culminate at roughly the same time later each year, the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) has marked its poetry and prose National Translation Awards’ 25th anniversary this year. This year’s program featured separate awards for prose and poetry for a ninth year.

Winning translators in this program receive US$4,000 each. The association’s November 46th conference, in Tucson—at which the awards were announced—was the first fully in-person conference the organization had staged since 2019. The theme of this year’s conference was The Place of Translation.

ALTA itself, like the Translators Association in the United Kingdom, is a major center for professional development among translators, with career support programming and a steady level of dedication to this too-little appreciated element of world literature.

The program’s organizers said they’d had record-breaking submission levels for their awards this year, comprising 262 titles in the prose competition and 93 in the poetry contest. The two longlists featured works by authors working in 19 languages and published by 19 presses.

An important and singular distinction of this particular award regime is that its jurors are able to evaluate both the quality of a source text in its original language and the success of its translation to English.

Related article: ‘Sheikh Zayed Book Award Winner Iman Mersal: ‘Reading the Past.’ Image: Tamer El Said

And our regular readers in so many far-flung parts of the world will be interested to learn that the winner in poetry is Iman Mersal, with whom we had an interview at the time of her 2021 win in the literature category at the Sheikh Zayed Book Awards, which are a program in the United Arab Emirates of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre.

Prose jurors in this year’s competition were Natascha Bruce, Shelley Frisch, Jason Grunebaum, Sawad Hussain, and Lytton Smith. In poetry, the jury panel includes Pauline Fan, Heather Green, and David Shook (who works under the single name Shook).

Here are the two winners of this year’s competition, and, again, you can learn about the full longlists in our earlier write-up here.

National Translation Award Winner in Prose, 2023

Translator Nguyễn An Lý  speaks at the 2023 conference of the American Literary Translators Association, where she won the National Translation Award in prose for her work with Thuận’s book ‘Chinatown.’ Image: ALTA

‘Chinatown,’ the US cover, left, and the UK cover. In both instances winning translator Nguyễn An Lý has been credited on the covers

Chinatown

  • By Thuận
  • Translated from Vietnamese by Nguyễn An Lý 

New Directions in the United States | Tilted Axis in the United Kingdom

Notes on the Winning Translator

In information provided by the National Translation Awards, we read, that translator Nguyễn An Lý lives in Ho Chi Minh City and translates mostly from English to Vietnamese. She has more than 20 translations published under various names and in various genres, including the work of authors Margaret Atwood, George Orwell, Kazuo Ishiguro, Borges, and the poetry in The Lord of the Rings.

“As an editor, she has worked with translations from Nabokov, AS Byatt, Barthes, Joseph Campbell, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Liu Cixin, among others,” the no

Chinatown by Thuận is her debut translation into English, to be followed soon by another work of the same author. She co-founded and co-edits the independent online Zzz Review.

National Translation Award Winner in Poetry, 2023

The Threshold 

  • By Iman Mersal 
  • Translated from Arabic by Robyn Creswell

Macmillan / Farrar, Straus and Giroux 

Notes on the Winning Translator

Information about Robyn Creswell, the winning translator in the poetry category, indicates that he teaches comparative literature at Yale University and is the author of City of Beginnings: Poetic Modernism in Beirut.

He’s the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, Cullman Center, and the American Academy in Berlin.

In addition to Mersal’s work, his translations include Abdelfattah Kilito’s The Tongue of Adam and Sonallah Ibrahim’s That Smell and Notes from Prison. He is a regular contributor to The New York Review of Books.

Jurors

This year’s prose judges were Natascha Bruce, Shelley Frisch, Jason Grunebaum, Sawad Hussain, and Lytton Smith.

The poetry competition jurors were Pauline Fan, Heather Green, and Shook.


More from Publishing Perspectives on translation is here, more from us on the American Literary Translators Association is here, more from us on Arabic literature and issues is here, more on Vietnam and its market is here, more from us 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.

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