Announcing the 2021 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize Shortlist

September 9, 2021— ALTA is excited to announce the titles selected for the 2021 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize shortlist! The Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize, which was inaugurated in 2009, recognizes the importance of Asian translation for international literature and promotes the translation of Asian works into English.

The judges for the 2021 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize are Jeffrey Angles, Maithreyi Karnoor, and Rajiv Mohabir.

The winning translator will receive a $6,000 cash prize and be featured with a reading when the winners of ALTA’s book prizes are announced. The awards will be announced at ALTA’s upcoming annual conference, ALTA44: Inflection Points, which will be held jointly online and in-person in Tucson, AZ. The awards ceremony will be held virtually on Saturday, October 16. The virtual awards ceremony is free and open to the public: just register on ALTA’s virtual conference platform to tune in (there is a free option for events like the awards ceremony).

To learn more about the Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize, visit the ALTA website.

The 2021 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation shortlist (in alphabetical order by title), accompanied by the judges’ citations:

Endless Song
By Nammāḻvār
Translated from Tamil by Archana Venkatesan 
(Penguin Random House India)

Endless Song is Archana Venkatesan’s monumental translation of the Tiruvāymoḻi, one of India’s most enduring bhakti poetic texts. Over the course of 1102 intricately wrought stanzas, the 9th-century Tamil poet Nammāḻvār sings of his dizzying, ecstatic love for the always-present, yet always-elusive divine. Thanks to Venkatesan’s more than three decades of work on this project, this important text now sings to us in the English-speaking world as well. In south India, this work is not just read and studied on the page, but also performed in communal readings. It is therefore appropriate that Venkatesan has crafted a translation that one can experience not only as a well-annotated, definitive work of scholarship, but also as a living, breathing work of contemporary poetry, too.   

Paper Bells
By Phan Nhiên Hạo
Translated from Vietnamese by Hai-Dang Phan 
(The Song Cave)

The lyric quality of these poems strikes hot: the ways in which the poetic device is reinterpreted carries with it a shade of both Vietnamese highlands and the countryside. The story of the poet Phan Nhiên Hao is extraordinary, in that this is an Asian American writing in an Asian language in the United States—something that is intriguing, and translated by another Asian American translator, Hai-Dang Phan. Themes of separation and longing work well to this end as the affective interiority of the multiple speakers shows a real consideration of new place, as well as a sense of wandering. Poems like “Fish in a Well” are incredibly important in their stakes of the fallout of “reeducation” and other kinds of social realities that haunt this poet. We are so glad to read this collection appearing in the United States.

The Selected Poems of Tu Fu
By Tu Fu
Translated from Chinese by David Hinton 
(New Directions)

If a poet’s works have been translated with varying degrees of excellence in the past, attempting a fresh translation is a daunting challenge. The yardsticks to measure its success are long and strong. David Hinton’s masterful translation shows it has been a beautiful accomplishment of a huge task. While the poems in this collection must be praised for their craft—tremendous control, serene imagery, and surreal denouements—the most striking feature is their contemporary appeal and modern sensibility. To look back thirteen centuries and find the concerns and hopes of the people (as seen by a deeply spiritual man) to be the same as they are now is at once immensely reassuring of the human spirit, and a great disillusionment at history’s ability to escape itself.  We feel lucky and proud to have had a chance to read this wonderfully produced book.  

Yi Sang: Selected Works
By Yi Sang
Translated from Korean and Japanese by Jack Jung, Sawako Nakayasu, Don Mee Choi, and Joyelle McSweeney 
(Wave Books)

This modernist Korean poet who wrote in Japanese and Korean shows the work of a postcolonial Korea dazzled with questions about meaning, sense, and economy of language. The approach of having four different translators—Jack Jung, Sawako Nakayasu, Don Mee Choi, and Joyelle McSweeney—in one volume does some interesting things in filling out the poet’s life and works through the various ways of reading it. What we are particularly drawn to is the strangeness of language and line, for almost the same reason that it thrills with the nuance and shifts of more traditionally lyric works. The strengths of this book in translation, along with the bilingual original writing, are the essays that beg linearity to fold in on itself. In particular, the most arresting sections are the first from Korean, as well as the translations from Japanese.

Congratulations to the shortlisted translators, authors, publishers, and editors!

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