‘Powerful evidence that the art of translation is alive and thriving’ – the 2021 Translation Prizes shortlists

16 November 2021

The Society of Authors has announced six shortlists for its annual Translation Prizes. Sharing a total prize fund worth almost £19,000, the winners will be announced in an online celebration on Thursday 10 February 2022, sponsored by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS).

This year the Prizes include the Bernard Shaw Prize, which will change from triennial to biennial in future years, thanks to a generous increase in funding from the Swedish Embassy.

The 33 shortlisted works translated from eight languages are, in the words of one of our judges, ‘powerful evidence that the art of translation is alive and thriving as well as ever’.

Without exception, each shortlist is a tight contest, with eloquently translated books spanning fiction, non-fiction and poetry, and running the gamut of genres.  Alexander Starritt, judge of the Schlegel-Tieck prize, even remarked ‘this year's shortlist contains one of the most remarkable feats of translation I've ever read’.

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The Bernard Shaw Prize

‘‘It was extremely heartening to see so many translations from Swedish of such a high quality’

A triennial award, changing to biennial from 2022, of £2,000 for translations into English of full-length Swedish language works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Charlotte Berry and Annika Lindskog.

The shortlist

  • Neil Smith for a translation of Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (Penguin, Michael Joseph)
  • Sarah Death for a translation of Chitambo by Hagar Olsson (Norvik Press)
  • Amanda Doxtater for a translation of Crisis by Karin Boye (Norvik Press)
  • Sarah Death for a translation of Letters from Tove by Tove Jansson and ed. by Boel Westin and Helen Svensson (Sort of Books)
  • Deborah Bragan-Turner for a translation of To Cook A Bear by Mikael Niemi (MacLehose Press)
  • Nichola Smalley for a translation of Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichý (And Other Stories)

The judges said of this year’s shortlist:

‘It was extremely heartening to see so many translations from Swedish of such a high quality entered for this prize, demonstrating the enduring popularity of Scandinavian authors with a British audience. It proved tricky to whittle these down into the short list. So many differing genres were represented, each with their specific challenges of register, period, setting and tone. The short list showcases this variety, encompassing popular and contemporary literature as well as literary fiction and a collection of letters, ranging from original publication dates of the 1930s to the current day, and set variously in Sweden, Finland and the far-reaching imagination.

Sponsored by the Embassy of Sweden, London.

Premio Valle Inclán

‘All five of the books on the shortlist were superb translations of remarkable books’

An annual prize of £2,000 for translations into English of full-length Spanish language works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Margaret Jull Costa and Sarah Maitland.

The shortlist

  • Annie McDermott for a translation of Dead Girls by Selva Almada (Charco Press)
  • Sophie Hughes for a translation of Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
  • Lisa Dillman for a translation of A Luminous Republic by Andrés Barba (Granta)
  • Fionn Petch for a translation of A Musical Offering by Luis Sagasti (Charco Press)
  • Christina MacSweeney for a translation of Ramifications by Daniel Saldaña París (Charco Press)

The judges said of this year’s shortlist:

All five of the books on the short list were superb translations of remarkable books, from the torrent of words that is Hurricane Season to the wry humour of Ramifications, the seductive menace of A Luminous Republic and the wonderfully lucid prose of Dead Girls and A Musical Offering. It is, as you can imagine, very hard to choose just one winner and one runner-up.

Sponsored by ALCS and the Society of Authors.

Schlegel-Tieck

‘These books take the reader into unfamiliar worlds, but are richly immediate and alive.’

An annual award of £3,000 for translations into English of full-length German works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Jen Calleja and Alexander Starritt.

The shortlist

  • Simon Pare for a translation of Cox; or, The Course of Time by Christoph Ransmayr (Seagull Books)
  • Jamie Bulloch for a translation of The Day My Grandfather Was a Hero by Paulus Hochgatterer (MacLehose Press)
  • Jamie Bulloch for a translation of The Hungry and the Fat by Timur Vermes (MacLehose Press)
  • Sophie Duvernoy for a translation of Käsebier Takes Berlin by  –Gabriele Tergit(Pushkin Press)
  • Karen Leeder for a translation of Porcelain: Poem on the Downfall of My City by Durs Grünbein (Seagull Books)

The judges said of this year’s shortlist:

This year's shortlist contains one of the most remarkable feats of translation I've ever read. It also points the reader towards a variety of enjoyable world-class writing, including a lushly vivid historical novel at the court of the Chinese emperor; a loose-living social circle in 1930s Berlin; and a contemporary The-Thick-of-It-style satire set partly in a Libyan refugee camp. There's sometimes a feeling of distance, a barrier of foreignness, with translated literature. These books take the reader into unfamiliar worlds, but are richly immediate and alive.

Sponsored by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, London.

The Scott Moncrieff Prize

This year’s shortlist ‘provide[s] powerful evidence that the art of translation is alive and thriving as well as ever.’

An annual award of £1,000 for translations into English of full-length French works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Gini Alhadeff and Ian Patterson.

The shortlist

  • Helen Stevenson for a translation of The Death of Comrade President by Alain Mabanckou (Profile Books: Serpent’s Tail)
  • Sam Taylor for a translation of The Invisible Land by Hubert Mingarelli (Granta)
  • Emily Boyce for a translation of A Long Way Off by Pascal Garnier (Gallic Books)
  • Roland Glasser for a translation of Real Life by Adeline Dieudonné (World Editions)
  • Laura Marris for a translation of Those Who Forget by Géraldine Schwarz (Pushkin Press)
  • Aneesa Abbas Higgins for a translation of Winter in Sokcho by Elisa Shua Dusapin (Daunt Books Publishing)

The judges said of this year’s shortlist:

The quality of entries this year made compiling the shortlist a difficult task, but these six all stood out as exemplary in one way or another. Spanning fiction and non-fiction, past and present, and encompassing a variety of genres, they provide powerful evidence that the art of translation is alive and thriving as well as ever.

Sponsored by the Institut français du Royaume-Uni.

TA First Translation

‘In each case the translator worked such magic that at points I completely forgot I was reading a translation’

An annual £2,000 prize for a debut literary translation into English published in the UK. The Prize is shared between the translator and their editor. This year’s judges are Daniel Hahn, Vineet Lal, and Annie McDermott.

The shortlist

  • Jackie Smith and editor Bill Swainson for a translation of An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky (MacLehose Press). Translated from German.
  • Jennifer Russell and editor Denise Rose Hansen for a translation of Marble by Amalie Smith (Lolli Editions). Translated from Danish.
  • Lucy Rand and editor Sophie Orme for a translation of The Phone Box at the Edge of the World, by Laura Imai Messina (Bonnier Books UK Ltd). Translated from Italian.
  • Rahul Bery and editor Federico Andornino for a translation of Rolling Fields by David Trueba (Weidenfeld & Nicolson – Orion Publishing Group). Translated from Spanish.
  • Padma Viswanathan and editor Edwin Frank for a translation of São Bernardo by Graciliano Ramos (New York Review Books). Translated from Portuguese.
  • Simon Leser and editor Andrew Hsiao for a translation of Tomorrow They Won't Dare to Murder Us by Joseph Andras (Verso Books). Translated from French.

The judges said of this year’s shortlist:

Even though I was reading these books for a translation prize, in each case the translator worked such magic that at points I completely forgot I was reading a translation and simply let the language sweep me along. They are all wildly different books and posed wildly different challenges to their translators, but each one is an example of brilliant writing, which is just what translations should be.

Sponsored by Daniel Hahn and the British Council.

The Vondel Prize

‘The five highly-skilled translators display an ear for dialogue, a keen understanding of characterization, and an ability to create a distinctive narrative voice’

A biennial award of €5000 for translations into English of full-length Dutch or Flemish works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Susan Massotty, Jane Draycott and Michele Hutchison.

The shortlist

  • David Colmer for a translation of Will by Jeroen Olyslaegers (Pushkin Press)
  • David Doherty for a translation of Summer Brother by Jaap Robben (World Editions)
  • David McKay for a translation of Adrift in the Middle Kingdom by J. Slauerhoff (Handheld Press)
  • Jane Hedley-Prole for a translation of The Republic by Joost de Vries (Other Press)
  • Laura Watkinson for a translation of Lampie by Annet Schaap (Pushkin Children’s)

The judges said of this year’s shortlist:

The books on the shortlist cover time periods spanning more than a century and take the reader to vastly different worlds, whether it be that of a ship’s doctor in the 1920s, a present-day academic, a Flemish policeman during the second world war, a thirteen-year-old boy or a lighthouse keeper’s daughter. The five highly skilled translators display an ear for dialogue, a keen understanding of characterization, and an ability to create a distinctive narrative voice.

Sponsored by the Dutch Foundation for Literature


CONTACT

For further information please contact Robyn Law in the SoA Prizes Team – prizes@societyofauthors.org

NOTES FOR EDITORS

THE SOCIETY OF AUTHORS’ TRANSLATION PRIZES
The Society of Authors promotes and supports ten translation prizes, six of which will be presented in an online ceremony on Thursday 10 February 2022.
www.societyofauthors.org/prizes

THE SOCIETY OF AUTHORS
The Society of Authors is the UK trade union for all types of writers, scriptwriters, illustrators and literary translators, at all stages of their careers. They have more than 11,800 members and have been advising individuals and speaking out for the profession for more than a century. In 2021, they have awarded more than £600,000 in prizes and grants for fiction, non-fiction, poetry and translation.

www.societyofauthors.org

THE AUTHORS’ LICENSING AND COLLECTING SOCIETY (ALCS) is a not-for-profit organisation started by writers for the benefit of all types of writers. Owned by its members, ALCS collects money due for secondary uses of writers’ work. It is designed to support authors and their creativity, ensure they receive fair payment and see their rights are respected. It promotes and teaches the principles of copyright and campaigns for a fair deal. It represents over 110,000 members, and since 1977 has paid around £500 million to writers.
www.alcs.co.uk