The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) is delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2017 Italian Prose in Translation Award. 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 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.
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.