Announcing the Winner of the 2017 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize!

October 7, 2017—The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) is delighted to announce the winner of the 2017 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize. The award was officially announced during ALTA’s annual conference, ALTA40: Reflections/Refractions, held this year at the Radisson Blu Downtown in Minneapolis, MN from October 5-8, 2017. Lucien Stryk was an internationally acclaimed translator of Japanese and Chinese Zen poetry, renowned Zen poet himself, and former professor of English at Northern Illinois University. The Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize recognizes the importance of Asian translation for international literature and promotes the translation of Asian works into English. This year’s judges are Eleanor Goodman, Kendall Heitzman, and Aditi Machado.

Winner: 2017 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize

Not Written Words
by Xi Xi
Translated from the Chinese by Jennifer Feeley
(Zephyr Press)

Words from the judges: Jennifer Feeley’s superb translation captures all of the creativity, intellect, and playfulness in the verse of premier Hong Kong poet Xi Xi. In these skillfully wrought and daring poems, Feeley employs all the tools of the English language, including unforced end and internal rhyme, alliteration, wordplay, and references that run the gamut from nursery rhymes and fairy tales to fine art to contemporary politics. In deceptively lighthearted poems such as “Excerpt from a Feminist Dictionary,” the verse rings as powerfully in the English as it does in the original Chinese:

I is I
you you
The third-person pronoun they
Combating the trade of lad/ies of the night

A hen is a shen
Heir sheir
Heaven Sheaven
A Hebrew woman a Shebrew

Mankind wekind
History herstory

This translation is essential reading, providing a window into the rich literature of Hong Kong and the larger Sinophone world.

Submissions for the 2018 Lucien Stryk Prize will be accepted starting in January 2018. Please visit us at www.literarytranslators.org/awards for more information.

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Announcing the Winner of the 2017 Italian Prose in Translation Award!

October 7, 2017—The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) is delighted to announce the winner of the 2016 Italian Prose in Translation Award! The award was officially announced during ALTA’s annual conference, ALTA40: Reflections/Refractions, held this year at the Radisson Blu Downtown in Minneapolis, MN from October 5-8, 2017.
Starting in 2015, the Italian Prose in Translation Award (IPTA) recognizes the importance of contemporary Italian prose (fiction and literary non-fiction) and promotes the translation of Italian works into English. This $5,000 cash prize is awarded annually to a translator of a recent work of Italian prose (fiction or literary non-fiction). This year’s judges are Elizabeth Harris, Jim Hicks, and Olivia Sears. Read what the judges had to say about the winning title below.

Winner: 2017 Italian Prose in Translation Award

We Want Everything
by Nanni Balestrini
translated from the Italian by Matt Holden
(Verso Books)

Nanni Balestrini’s We Want Everything (1971), translated for the first time into English by Matt Holden, is unabashedly political—a novel, as Rachel Kushner says in her introduction, that is deeply original and that “succeeds on three different levels simultaneously, as a work of astounding art, a document of history, and a political analysis that remains resonant to the contradictions of the present.” We witness the awakening of an unnamed narrator in 1960s Italy, a worker from the south who migrates north to participate in Italy’s “economic miracle,” only to find the stultifying work conditions of a Turin Fiat plant to be intolerable. The protagonist participates in strikes that were a part of what has come to be known as Italy’s “hot autumn” of 1969. The novel’s magic comes by way of its narrator: vibrant and compelling, the narrative voice is also harsh, and keeps its distance. As the story continues, this voice, still vibrant, speaks increasingly for an entire group of exhausted, enraged workers—and yet the novel avoids being dogmatic or propagandistic. As the legendary leftist Luciana Castellina has put it: Ballestrini created the first true novel in Italy about workers. In English, the complexity and nuance of the narrative voice, shifting seamlessly between the spoken word and descriptions of a new political movement, are of course the work of Matt Holden; his excellent translation remains remarkably true to Balestrini’s original while never faltering as a work of gritty art.

Submissions for the 2018 Italian Prose in Translation Award will be accepted starting in January 2018.Please visit us at www.literarytranslators.org/awards for more information.

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Announcing the Winner of the 2018 Cliff Becker Book Prize in Translation!

October 7, 2017—White Pine Press, the Cliff Becker Endowment for the Literary Arts, and the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) are proud to announce the winner of the sixth annual Cliff Becker Book Prize in Translation, which produces one volume of literary translation in English, annually.

This year’s winners are Derek Mong and Anne O. Fisher for their translation from the Russian of The Joyous Science: Selected Poems of  Maxim Amelin. The judges Diana Thow,  Anthony Anemone, and Joanna Trzeciak Huss read and reviewed 30 book manuscripts in determining the winner of the prize. The book will be published by White Pine Press in fall 2018 and launched at ALTA’s annual conference, ALTA41, which will be held in Bloomington, IN from October 31 – November 3, 2018. The judges had the following to say about Fisher and Mong’s manuscript:

Mong and Fisher have succeeded in finding a distinctive voice in English for Amelin, a poet steeped in the philosophical traditions and poetic culture of Russia.  There is poetry in Mong and Fisher’s translation, wrought in judicious and playful word choice, internal rhyme, and with a sensitive ear for song, sense, and soulfulness.  There are even places where these translations equal or, perhaps, surpass the original in their crispness and linguistic innovation, making this collection not only a remarkable accomplishment of poetic translation but truly a pleasure to read.

Additionally, the judges for the 2017 Cliff Becker Prize have awarded Honorable Mentions to Art Beck for his translation of Martial’s Mea Roma and Elaine Wong for her translation of Chen Li’s Twelve Dynasties. They had this to say about the runners-up:

Art Beck allows Martial to speak directly to the modern reader, artfully navigating the profound differences between contemporary English poetry and Latin poetry of the First Century C.E. Like Martial’s originals, Beck’s translations are funny, beautifully crafted, and, often, profoundly shocking to modern sensibilities.

Elaine Wong translates Chen Li with verbal deftness, elegance and nearly mathematical precision. Her ability to preserve the central conceits of Twelve Dynasties is an impressive achievement and makes for a stirring read that richly deserves to be acknowledged.

Submissions for the 2019 Cliff Becker Book Prize will be accepted starting in January 2018. Please visit us at www.literarytranslators.org/awards for more information.

 

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Announcing the 2017 Winners of the National Translation Awards in Poetry and Prose!

October 7, 2017—The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) is pleased to announce the winners of the 2017 National Translation Awards (NTA) in Poetry and Prose! This is the nineteenth year for the NTA, which is administered by the ALTA, and only the third year to award separate prizes in poetry and prose. The NTA is the 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.

This year’s judges for poetry are Ani Gjika, Katrine Øgaard Jensen, and Gregory Racz. This year’s prose judges are Carol Apollonio, Eric M. B. Becker, and Ottilie Mulzet. Award selection criteria include the quality of the finished English language book, and the quality of the translation.

Winner: 2017 National Translation Award in Poetry

Valdivia
by Galo Ghigliotto
translated from the Spanish by Daniel Borzutzky
(co·im·press)

Words from the judges: In Valdivia, a haunting fusion of history, dreamscape, and memory, Chilean Galo Ghigliotto’s speaker offers a complex vision of his provincial birth city as the site of famous battles, a devastating 1960 earthquake (with its ensuing floods), and eerie, otherworldly phenomena amid the scenario of domestic violence that plagued his own family.  Written as a series of forty-three poems tellingly presented out of sequence, Valdivia serves as a sort of poetic catharsis for these afflictions which, embedded in reality, can scarcely pull clear of the imagination.  Daniel Borzutzky vividly renders this melding of fact, fiction, and the vagaries of recollection in a lucid and precise English.


Winner: 2017 National Translation Award in Prose

Zama
by Antonio di Benedetto
translated from the Spanish by Esther Allen
(New York Review of Books)

Words from the judges: How fortunate we are to finally have this classic of twentieth-century Argentine literature  in English. Zama, “pacifier of Indians” and a servant of the Spanish crown in eighteenth-century colonial America, aches for a better post in a city where he might send for his wife and their children. As his prospects dim, Zama descends into economic and moral penury, his rapidly deteriorating situation revealing not only his own prejudices but those behind the Spanish government’s changing relationship to its colonies. Esther Allen’s superb translation captures the remarkable atmosphere and existential anguish of Di Benedetto’s masterwork.

Submissions for the 2018 National Translation Awards will be accepted starting in January 2018. Please visit us at www.literarytranslators.org/awards for more information.

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Review of “A Whole Life” by Robert Seethaler, trans. Charlotte Collins

by Julie Winter

Austrian writer Robert Seethaler’s Ein ganzes Leben, translated into English by Charlotte Collins as A Whole Life, illustrates well the notion that everyone’s life is a novel. Here we have the story of a quiet and simple man, Andreas Egger, born somewhere around 1898

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A Whole Life, by Robert Seethaler, trans. Charlotte Collins (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016)

and living out most of his life in a small village located in a valley in the mountains. Egger has no clear memory of his mother, a father is never mentioned; he is raised by a cruel distant relation, has little formal education but is strong and healthy, finds no manual labor beneath him, experiences a great love, spends years as a Russian prisoner of war, and in general leads what most would find to be a severe, difficult life. Yet this is not a depressing novel; the reader is quickly caught up in Egger’s solitary, but not desperate existence. The story is in the telling of it, another truism adroitly illustrated by this novel. The sparse, understated style made me want to read more to find out how Egger deals with the unkind blows he receives. We see that in spite of harsh conditions, Egger lives his life without self-pity; we come to like and admire him and ultimately to reflect on how we deal with adversity in our own lives.

Each phase of Egger’s life is given equal attention; the novel progresses without hurrying through his childhood, young adulthood, middle age, and old age. The pace is slow and methodical, without being weighty or boring. It is surprising to discover what a short novel it is, given the depth of coverage of Egger’s life. We know it is inevitable that we will be accompanying the protagonist all the way until the end of his life. Indeed, Death, in the form of the Cold Lady, frames the novel. The story opens with Egger trying to bring the sick old goatherd Johannes Kalischka, known to the townspeople as “Horned Hannes,” down from the mountain, carrying him on his back. The goatherd does not want to go, wants instead to stay on his mountain, in spite of his fear of encountering the Cold Lady. He prevails by escaping from Egger during the hike down the mountain; Egger tries to catch up with him but is unable to in the deep snow and presciently shouts out after him, “No one has ever outrun Death!”

The rhythm of this passage about the Cold Lady, spoken by the goatherd, underscores the inevitability of Death:

She walks on the mountain and steals through the valley. She comes when she wants and takes what she needs. She has no face and no voice. The Cold Lady comes and takes and goes. That’s all. She seizes you as she passes and takes you with her and sticks you in some hole. And in the last patch of sky you see before they finally shovel the earth in over you she reappears and breathes on you. And all that’s left for you then is darkness. And the cold.

The Cold Lady does indeed return at the end of the novel, which describes Egger’s own undramatic death. She is present throughout the telling of the story in a natural, organic way; the reader intuits that the protagonist will accept his own death, when his time comes, and that he will live life simply, but fully, until then.

Egger never wallows—neither in his grief, nor in the haunting beauty of his surroundings. But this is not to say that he doesn’t feel the full gamut of human emotions, including earth-shattering sorrow. In fact, he suffers greatly, but resigns himself to accepting things the way they are, knowing well his own circumstances and limitations.

Egger’s severe childhood helps explain his approach to life as an adult. Brutally treated by the head of the family, Hubert Kranzstocker, a cruel and grotesque man, the child Egger was used as hard labor; no tenderness for him shown by the family with the exception of the grandmother who occasionally put her hand on his head and said “God bless you.” When she died, a horrific scene is described wherein the coffin is accidentally opened due to an incident involving a vicious dog attacking a horse, and the grandmother’s withered hand flops out. Yet the child Egger sees in this that she is waving goodbye to him. This is an example of how he simply takes life as it comes him, even sees something good in hard blows. The gruesome details in this and other passages keep the reader focused on the stark realities of this difficult life. Nothing is sugarcoated.

The firm Bittermann & Sons, as a symbol of progress and modern technology coming to the village, is a main theme throughout the novel. The company plans to build a cable car up the mountain; later they will build ski lifts that turn the village into a modern, bustling resort. It brings along hundreds of workers, building materials, loud machinery, and the electricity needed to run the cable car. The townspeople cheer when the company arrives, but Egger feels a sadness that he can’t quite understand. True to his nature, he feels deeply but does not dwell on it and ultimately joins in the cheering. Later Egger works for this company, becoming a valuable, though underpaid, employee. There is social criticism here, but it is not the focus of the novel. Again and again we see that life brings adversity, things change, often not for the better, but Egger will live with acceptance.

The style captivates, mesmerizes; the translator has superbly recreated the mood and rhythm of the original. The word I want to use in describing Collins’ rendering is “warmth”—the translation has a vibrancy and warmth to it that makes it immediately resonate in English. It brings to fore the great depth in the simplicity of the story, the eerily beautiful and ever-present mountain, that seems to have a life of its own, and the quiet acceptance of the protagonist, moving—and inspirational.

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