2012 NEA Translation Fellowships
Continuing in our day of prize announcements, this morning the NEA released info on this year’s Translation Fellowships. The NEA awarded $200,000 in grant money to 16 translators—many of whom I know personally—for a wide range of projects.
This is always one of the most exciting announcements of the granting season [sic—I don’t know if two awards constitute a “season” but still] for me, since it’s exciting to see so many excellent translators and good friends receive these rather generous awards (recipients receive either $12,500 or $25,000), and there’s always at least 3 or 4 projects that I’d like to publish, or at least read.
Here’s the full list of winners and descriptions of their projects. Bios of the translators can be found here.
- Eric Abrahamsen. To support the translation of Running Through Zhongguancun by the contemporary Chinese novelist Xu Zechen. This novel’s style is sparse and direct, representing a divergence from traditional Chinese literature. The novel tells the story of a poor boy trying to make it in Beijing by selling pirated DVDs and fake IDs.
- Ross Benjamin. To support the translation of the German novel The Frequencies by Clemens J. Setz. This 716-page novel was shortlisted for the 2009 German Book Prize and won the 2010 Bremen Literature Prize. It examines the crisscrossing paths of a group of characters and explores how seemingly small collisions of everyday lives can have rippling consequences. Setz draws from his experience, not only as a writer, but as a jazz pianist, overtone singer, mathematician, and magician.
- Lisa Rose Bradford. To support the translation of the Argentine poet Juan Gelman’s Oxen Rage. Gelman is arguably Argentina’s foremost contemporary poet. His Oxen Rage has never been translated in its entirety into English. In this innovative book, the author shifts his own style from traditional free verse and direct social commentary to wordplay, unorthodox grammar, and rhythmic amalgamations. Gelman published more than 20 books of poetry from 1956-2009. He has received numerous awards including the most prestigious Spanish-language literary award, the Cervantes Prize (2007).
- Geoffrey Brock. To support the translation of the selected poems of Italian poet Giovanni Pascoli. Pascoli (1855-1912) produced a major body of work that influenced modern Italian poetry. His poetry has been revered, studied, and enjoyed in Italy, but has been neglected in English translation. At Pascoli’s best, the applicant asserts that he has a “quiet, plain-spoken style” that is a refreshing change from the “grandiosity” of his contemporaries.
- Peter Constantine. To support the translation from Russian of stories and vignettes from Anton Chekhov’s early period (1880-85). Much of Chekhov’s early work still remains largely unavailable to an English-language readership. This project focuses on the prolific body of work produced by the time Chekhov reached his mid-twenties that led to him receiving the prestigious Pushkin Prize in 1887. The pieces are all comical, ranging from traditional narratives to innovative forms, such as classified ads, telegrams, and lawyers’ depositions.
- Kristin Dykstra. To support the translation of Catch and Release by Cuban poet Reina María Rodríguez. Published in 2006, this collection of poems won the prestigious Cuban National Critics’ prize. Rodríguez is consistently recognized as a major international poet and one of the most significant writers on the island today. Catch and Release is a mix of meditations on relationships and home. To quote the applicant, she “blurs intimate experience into social expertise, achieving a result that is not adequately categorized as either ‘private’ or ‘public’ poetry yet undeniably partakes of both.”
- Michelle Gil-Montero. To support the translation of The Annunciation by Argentinian novelist María Negroni. Published in 2008, this novel is imaginative and structurally innovative and explores the atmosphere of Argentina during the Dirty War. The Annunciation emphasizes structure over plot. Negroni resists narrative traditions like chronology and instead conjures a sense of “ubiquitous time,” while freely traversing narrative styles as diverse as memory, history, and fantasy. This will be the first translation of The Annunciation into English.
- David Hinton. To support the translation from Chinese of the selected poems of Mei Yao-ch’en. Considered one of the most important poets in the Chinese tradition, Yao-ch’en (1002-60 C.E.) produced a corpus of 2,800 poems during the Sung Dynasty. This book is the 12th volume in Hinton’s pursuit to translate China’s major classical poets. Yao-ch’en’s work is not readily available to an English readership. The only translation was published more than 30 years ago and is out-of-print.
- William Maynard Hutchins. To support the translation of the Arabic novel New Waw by Ibrahim al-Koni. Born in Libya in 1948 and educated in Moscow, al-Koni now lives in Switzerland. He has published more than 70 volumes of work and won several international literary awards, including the Egyptian State Prize for the Arabic Novel (2010) and the Sheikh Zayed Award for Literature (2008). New Waw is the first volume of a trilogy, each novel following the founding, flourishing, and downfall of a Saharan nomadic tribe.
- Pierre Joris. To support the translation from German of The Complete Later Poetry of Paul Celan. Celan is widely regarded as among this century’s major German poets. Only Rilke can be considered as famous and influential on German and world poetry. This project aspires to include, in one 640-page book, two posthumously published volumes, a range of uncollected poems, and re-translations of the first three volumes of Celan’s later poetry, which are currently out-of-print.
- Karen Kovacik. To support the translation of In What World: Selected Poems by Polish writer Agnieszka Kuciak. An accomplished poet and translator, Kuciak is the author of the first Polish translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy in more than a half century. An inventive and original young voice in Polish poetry, Kuciak’s poetry is far removed from World War II and the communist era. Her Poland is marked by buying and selling, global Internet culture, and a Catholic hierarchy bent on preserving its influence. No book-length translations of Kuciak’s poetry have yet appeared in English.
- Brandon Lussier. To support the translation of a collection of new and selected poems by Estonian poet Hasso Krull. Since Estonia regained independence in 1991, Krull has emerged as an important writer and intellectual, publishing 10 volumes of poetry, as well as collections of criticism and scholarship on Estonian mythology. Krull has earned some of the most prestigious writing awards in Estonia, including a Baltic Assembly Writing Award (2005). There is a scarcity of Estonian poetry in English translation, and this project is significant to introduce a wider audience to an influential contemporary poet.
- Pedro Enrique Rodriguez Jr. To support the translation of travelogues and novels by George Groslier, a Cambodian-born French writer. Groslier (1887-1945) spent his youth and adolescence in France, but when his dreams of becoming a painter were squashed, he sought a job in colonial service. His first assignment in 1913 sent him back to Cambodia. This was the beginning of a life-long pursuit to catalogue and preserve Khmer art and culture. He is the author of several travelogues, novels, and scholarly work.
- Jake Schneider. To support the translation of German poet Ron Winkler’s Fragmented Waters. Born in 1973, Winkler’s 2004 breakthrough poetry collection established him as a contemporary poet who dares to write about the natural world. He cannot be classified as a proverbial nature poet; instead Winkler maps a playfully fresh glossary, calling fish “professionally primitive” and diagnosing the wind as “going through a pedagogical phase.” Martin Droschke’s summation of Fragmented Waters: “Ron Winkler has blended two virtually incongruous texts: a passed-down nature walk and a user’s manual for life in the Information Age.”
- Archana Venkatesan. To support the translation of the ninth-century poem “Sacred Speech” by Satakōpan (popularly known as Nammālvār). Satakōpan was regarded as one of the greatest poets and theologians of early medieval India. “Sacred Speech,” a devotional song poem of 1,102 verses, is one of his four major poetic works. These four poems continue to enjoy an active ritual and oral life in India today. Despite its importance, Sacred Speech has yet to be translated in its entirety from Tamil into English.
- Alex Zucker. To support the translation from Czech of Marketa Lazarova by novelist Vladislav Vančura. Published in 1931 to critical acclaim, this best-selling novel is set in a town outside of Prague in the 13th-century. The novel remains a classic, in part because of its richly stylized language. In the plot, a lord’s daughter is kidnapped by a neighboring clan and becomes a mistress to one of her captors. The novel is considered Vančura’s thinly veiled address to the Czech people about challenging the Nazi party uprising in Germany. Vančura joined an underground resistance movement and was executed by the German S.S. in 1942. In his lifetime, he published 11 novels, five short story collections, and five plays.