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Kurt Beals Wins First-Ever German Book Office Translation Prize

Just reproducing the press release the GBO sent me, since it says everything that needs to be said in the best way possible:

The German Book Office is excited to announce that Kurt Beals has won its first ever translation competition.

Beals, a PhD Candidate in German Literature and Culture at the University of California, Berkeley, will receive a $600 commission to translate the first fifteen pages of Nora Bossong’s novel Gesellschaft mit beschraenkter Haftung into English. Translator Elizabeth Janik, meanwhile, has been named runner-up, and both translators will be added to the Goethe-Institut & German Book Office translator database.

“As a reader and a student of German literature, every so often I come across a work that’s brilliant, unexpected, and untranslated,” said Beals. “And as a translator, that’s the kind of problem that I like to solve. But I think that the more fundamental reason to translate, for me, is that there’s no better way to engage thoroughly with a work of literature, to think about each word, why it’s there and how it fits into the work as a whole.”

The competition, which aimed to bring aspiring German language translators into contact with US editors, asked contestants to translate a seven-hundred word excerpt from Gesellschaft mit beschraenkter Haftung. Submissions were limited to translators who had no more than one translated book published in English and are US based.

The first round of judging featured a panel of American editors – comprised of Jenna Johnson from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, John Siciliano from Penguin, and Random House’s Lexy Bloom – who narrowed down the nearly sixty submissions to a shortlist of nine.

A panel of three accomplished translators – Susan Bernofsky, Burton Pike and Ross Benjamin – then chose from that shortlist the winner and runner up.

The announcement was made last night at a reception and awards ceremony at the Goethe-Institut New York.

“I’m pleased that the German Book Office has offered translators at an early stage in their careers an opportunity to test their skills and receive recognition for their efforts,” added Beals. “This is a great way to encourage the next generation of translators!”



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