Announcing the 2021 Italian Prose in Translation Award Shortlist

September 16, 2021— ALTA is excited to announce the titles selected for the 2021 Italian Prose in Translation Award (IPTA) shortlist! Since 2015, the Italian Prose in Translation Award (IPTA) has recognized the importance of contemporary Italian prose and promoted 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 nonfiction).

The judges of the 2021 IPTA are Stiliana Milkova, Minna Zallman Proctor, and Will Schutt.

The winning translator will receive a $5,000 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 Italian Prose in Translation Award, visit the ALTA website.

The 2021 Italian Prose in Translation Award shortlist (in alphabetical order by title), accompanied by the judges’ citations:

Brief Lives of Idiots
By Ermanno Cavazzoni
Translated from Italian by Jamie Richards

A vertiginous, hybrid, genre-bending text, Ermanno Cavazzoni’s Brief Lives of Idiots at once adopts and subverts the medieval hagiographic tradition of 13th-century bestsellers such as The Lives of the Saints. Collapsing the distance between “saints” and “idiots,” the book explores the teeming insanities, ineptitudes, and pathologies of everyday life. Following the medieval model and structured as a calendar of sorts, it contains 31 stories about idiots, one for each day of the month. Translator Jamie Richards keeps pace with the book’s stylistic register, which swerves from the humorous to the absurd, from the clinical to the morbid, and from the quotidian to the marvelous. To capture the original’s diverse sources—medieval texts, medical treatises, and mental asylum records—Richards employs an equally motley English, drawing on a range of literary and philosophical texts. Her learned translator’s note is exemplary in providing the linguistic, literary, cultural, and historical contexts for Brief Lives of Idiots and for her own approach to translating it.

Diary of a Foreigner in Paris
By Curzio Malaparte
Translated from Italian and French by Stephen Twilley

Stephen Twilley has given us a pitch-perfect translation of Curzio Malaparte’s unfinished chronicle of his stay in France and Switzerland in 1947 and 1948. As Malaparte writes in his preface, the diary is “a theatrical work brought to the boards of the page,” more fabulist than factual, overlain with unforgettable scenes, brief sketches, tall tales, and sweeping (at times dubious) pronouncements on the character of the French and the emergence of a new breed of European after the war. Diary of a Foreigner in Paris also presents readers with a memorable portrait of the diarist: a complicated figure, a former fascist who professes his antifascism, a social butterfly who prefers the company of dogs, a war correspondent who likes nothing better than a good story. As Edmund White points out in his inspired introduction, Malaparte may have been less important for his ideas than for his gifts as a sentence-maker; whether he is commenting on the blotting paper Proust wrote on (“a pale stain of India ink…a shadowy embroidery of branches, a forest in a fog”) or skewering the manners of Sartre’s followers (“those of a new, artificial bohemianism, which proposes to replace principles with slovenliness, ideas with a sweater”), Malaparte, in Twilley’s finely wrought translation, is delicious to read.

Dissipatio H.G.: The Vanishing
By Guido Morselli
Translated from Italian by Frederika Randall

Shortly before her death in May 2020, Frederika Randall completed her translation of Guido Morselli’s Dissipatio H.G., concluding a remarkably rich career that introduced readers to iconoclastic works of Italian literature previously unavailable in English. Dissipatio H.G—the second book of Morselli’s translated by Randall, and Morselli’s last before his death by suicide in 1974—is a brief and haunting novel about a misanthropic outsider who goes out to a cave to end his life, finds the mood has left him, becomes distracted by thoughts of Spanish brandy, and re-emerges from the cave to discover he is the lone survivor of a mysterious apocalyptic event. In the absence of the human race, the self-described “Anthropophobe” mulls over his unusual position as the last man on Earth, disinters ancient and contemporary philosophy to make sense of his situation, wanders the once-populated cityscape of Chrysopolis, and contemplates the ghosts of his past. Dissipatio H.G. is a deeply interior novel, “a mixture of essay and historical invention with the psychological texture of fictional realism,” as Randall puts it in her terrific introduction. Randall delivers the ironic tone and restrained despair of Morselli’s narrator in a strikingly original English whose clean surface conceals the disquiet below.

The Garden of Monsters
By Lorenza Pieri
Translated from Italian by Liesl Schillinger
(Europa Editions)

The 1980s brought a new wave of social mobility to Italy—textile barons, industrialists, and fine food and wine exporters started moving into the social milieux formally occupied only by nobles, intellectuals, and artists. The backwater Tuscan coast of Maremma—land of horses and farms, a marshy region whose own name is a profanity…Maremma—was gentrified in that period. Summers brought a new class of middle-class vacationers from Rome and Florence; farmers started catering to tourists. That time and place is the backdrop of Lorenza Pieri’s gracious coming-of-age novel, The Garden of Monsters. With French artist Niki de Saint Phalle’s real-life monumental sculpture Tarot Garden at its center, Pieri blends the earthy realism of class, family, and adolescence with the magic of art, inspiration, and tarot. Liesl Schillinger’s debut Italian translation is wonderfully literary and as fluid as the complex idiom it captures—whether regional slang, teenage petulance, the tense subterfuge of family dynamics, the mysticism of art, or the broad stripes of class. Schillinger’s sensitive English is both alluring and transparent, a perfect complement to the raw sentiment of the novel.

Heaven and Earth
By Paolo Giordano
Translated from Italian by Anne Milano Appel
(Pamela Dorman Books / Viking)

In Paolo Giordano’s novel Heaven and Earth, translator Anne Milano Appel moves deftly among lexical dimensions spanning agriculture and ecology, theology and religious faith, romantic love and infertility treatments. The story of a grassroots organic farming initiative in Puglia, Heaven and Earth is rooted in the natural and emotional landscapes of a generation of environment-conscious Italians facing the insidious effects of living in the Anthropocene. It is also a story of coming-of-age and spiritual growth, of learning to love and forgive. The narrator, Teresa, encounters a deeply religious family of foster parents living on an abandoned farm and falls in love with one of the boys, Bern. The novel traces Teresa and Bern’s relationship as it grows and matures, like the farm they create together, in haunting, yet productive ways. The metaphor of ecological fertility runs through Heaven and Earth, linking land and soil to the human body and the quests of the human mind. The translator’s virtuosity in rendering the passionate intensity, overwrought interactions, and profound resonance of this deceptively understated narrative is remarkable.

Congratulations to all the translators, authors, publishers, and editors recognized here!

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