Announcing the 2020 Italian Prose in Translation Award Shortlist

September 9, 2020—The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) is delighted to announce the shortlist for the 2020 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 Jeanne Bonner, Richard Dixon, and Antony Shugaar.

The award-winning translator for 2020 will receive a $5,000 cash prize, and the award will be announced during ALTA’s annual conference, which this year has gone virtual. The awards ceremony will air on October 15, 2020 on ALTA’s Crowdcast page: you can register to attend the Italian Prose in Translation Award event here.

The 2020 Italian Prose in Translation Award Shortlist (in alphabetical order by title):

At The Wolf’s Table
By Rosella Postorino
Translated from the Italian by Leah D. Janeczko
(Flatiron Books)

Set in the final stages of World War II, this novel is inspired by the real-life experience of a German woman who is conscripted to taste dishes to be served to Adolf Hitler. Rosa Sauer’s parents are dead, her husband is fighting on the eastern front and she is sheltering with his parents when the SS come knocking at her door. She and a handful of women, her fellow food-tasters, are forced to eat food that someone might have poisoned. Leah D. Janeczko well renders the intensity of the original text, capturing the drama of the women’s plight, their tensions, anxieties and despair, and has a fine ear for dialogue that flows smoothly and compellingly.


Beyond Babylon
By Igiaba Scego
Translated from the Italian by Aaron Robertson
(Two Lines Press)

Igiaba Scego’s sprawling modern epic of a novel tells us the story of two half-sisters and in the process drops us into contemporary Rome, a fascinating city of immigrants and refugees. Readers may see the Eternal City and Italy through an entire new lens – the lens of people who escaped all kinds of tragedies (in the case of one sister, Argentina’s Dirty War) to remake their lives in a new place. While weaving an engrossing story, Scego, who is of Somalian descent, touches on myriad controversial issues facing Italy (and not only), including colonialism, racism and sexism – and face them it must. Such a brimming, polyglot novel provided no end of challenges to translator Aaron Robertson who provides an accessible English version of Scego’s witty, frank Italian.


The Bishop’s Bedroom
By Piero Chiara
Translated from the Italian by Jill Foulston
(New Vessel Press)

In this sophisticated and at times moody murder mystery, two men meet up in post-war Northern Italy and become friends as they sail around Lake Maggiore. The author, Piero Chiara, has expertly combined what the late John Gardner considered fiction’s two main storylines: a stranger comes to town and a man goes on a journey. The stranger in this case is the owner of a small sailing vessel, while the man who goes on the journey is a wealthy villa owner whose accounting of his wartime adventures in Africa doesn’t quite add up. Or is that the case? Chiara keeps us guessing and reading, with the combination of the stranger and the journey resulting in tragedy, heartache and disaffection. The novel is eminently readable, thanks to the spare and accurate – in everything from mood to diction – translation by Jill Foulston who matches Chiara’s peerless knowledge of winds, tides and other nautical concerns that pepper the narrative.


I Am God
By Giacomo Sartori
Translated from the Italian by Frederika Randall
(Restless Books)

God has an existential crisis and falls in love with the unlikeliest of humans. Why, he asks, with eight billion to look after, should I go for a geneticist who also happens to be a fanatical atheist? Being all-powerful is losing its appeal but would life as a mortal be any better? Through the eyes of our omniscient narrator we look at the immensity of human insignificance as he meditates on beauty, goodness, the environment, the cosmos and our miserable attempts at religion. Sartori’s deliciously absurd humor is magnificently translated by Frederika Randall who catches his mocking voice with great ingenuity, delivering well-honed one liners with impeccable timing and all the skill of a standup comic.


Ithaca Forever: Penelope Speaks. A Novel
By Luigi Malerba
Translated from the Italian by Douglas Grant Heise
(University of California Press)

Odysseus’s return to his wife Penelope after his twenty-year absence is masterfully retold in this intriguing novel that pries open the gaps in Homer’s narrative. Did she really fail to recognize him when he appeared before her dressed as a beggar? Malerba’s interpretation highlights Odysseus’s vanity and Penelope’s resentment when she realizes his first interest is to test out her fidelity. He has been fighting wars and seeking adventure while hers has been a life of solitude, a marriage on hold. Douglas Grant Heise brilliantly captures the voices of the returning victor and his emotional inadequacies, and the long suffering wife who isn’t prepared to go along with his games.

If you’re eager to read these books ahead of the announcement of the winner on October 15, consider buying them from our Bookshop.org list! When you do, you help support local bookstores.

This entry was posted in ALTA Conference, IPTA, Prizes. Bookmark the permalink.

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