Announcing the Winner of the 2019 Italian Prose in Translation Award: The Eight Mountains

November 8, 2019—The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) is pleased to announce the winner of the 2019 Italian Prose in Translation Award (IPTA 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 Allison Grimaldi-Donahue, Alta L. Price, and Zakiya Hanafi.

This year’s winner was awarded at the ALTA’s 42nd annual conference, Sight and Sound, held this year at the Joseph A. Floreano Riverside Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency Rochester in Rochester, NY. The award was presented by 2019 judge Allison Grimaldi-Donahue. As this year’s winners could not be in attendance, the award was accepted on their behalf by former IPTA winner Elizabeth Harris. The winners will be awarded a $5,000 prize.

Winner: 2019 Italian Prose in Translation Award

Eight-mountainsThe Eight Mountains
By Paolo Cognetti
Translated from the Italian by Simon Carnell and Erica Segre
(Atria Publishing Group & Harvill Secker)

The judges had the following to say about this title:

Short-story writer Paolo Cognetti’s first novel—a meditation on the deeper meanings of friendship and family—has become an instant international classic in 38 languages, and for good reason. Probing the themes of male friendship and father-son relations, it casts the mountains in the role of a teacher whose lessons are taught through the challenging, exhilarating and often devastating ascents and descents of life. The characters, so tied to the Italian alps in which they live, are brought to life through gentle description and precise dialogue. Cognetti has described his creative process as “writing from truth,” “like a painter with a palette” as he walks the alpine landscapes, kneading his experience of the land and its natural seasons into words. To do this, he has had to learn a whole new vocabulary from his mountain friends that “the Italian of the plains” does not possess—words in dialect injected into the narrative that create a sort of otherworldliness, “as if it were a foreign language.” Poet Simon Carnell and writer Erica Segre capture this foreignness with serenity in their translation, soothingly transforming his lyrical descriptions into a lilting, cascading English. Like the author himself, we come to understand the title’s meaning only as the story unfolds and the horizon opens up onto the next peak, folding the past back onto itself and revealing the aching rewards of nostalgia. This novel asks questions of class, education, generational differences, and the ways in which friendships can move with time, portraying the varied kinds of love the human condition allows us to experience.

Erica Segre

Erica Segre is a fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge;  Simon Carnell is a freelance writer and poet. Together they have translated works of fiction, poetry, literary non- fiction and science. Their translations of work by Leonardo Sciascia, Elio Vittorini, Grazia Deledda and others have appeared in The Penguin Book of Italian Short Stories (2019) – and of Eugenio Montale, Umberto Saba, Salvatore Quasimodo etc. in numerous magazines, and in The Faber Book of 20th-Century Italian Poems (2004). Their acclaimed translations of three books by the Simon Carnellquantum physicist Carlo Rovelli – Seven Brief Lessons on Physics (2014), Reality is Not What It Seems (2016) and The Order of Time (2018) have each been New York Times and Sunday Times bestsellers. Other works include Giorgio Van Straten’s essay collection In Search of Lost Books (2017), and Paolo Cognetti’s memoir The Wild Boy (2019). Their version of Sibilla Aleramo’s novel A Woman is forthcoming from Penguin Modern Classics, and of Antonio Ereditato’s Ever Smaller: Nature’s Elementary Particles from MIT. Their own works include Carnell’s Hare (Reaktion) and Segre’s Intersected Identities: Strategies of Visualisation in 19th and 20th Century Mexican Culture (Bergahn Books).

The 2020 Italian Prose in Translation Award submissions portal will be opened in January 2020.


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