The recipients of this year’s PEN Translation Fund Awards were announced last week, and once again, a number of really interesting projects are highlighted—including a number that are still looking for a publishers . . .
For those unfamiliar with the prize, this was established in 2003 thanks to an anonymous gift of some $730,000 and every year ten or so translators receive $2,000-$5,000 for a project they are working on. These projects don’t need to have a publisher already, and since translators apply directly, the Fund receives approx. 130 applications each year. (Almost half as many applications as the number of translations published in the U.S. . . .)
Anyway, here are this year’s winners:
Eric Abrahamsen for My Spiritual Homeland by Wang Xiaobo (1952-1997), a collection of penetrating, funny and breathtakingly frank essays written fifteen years after the Cultural Revolution by one of China’s most insightful and controversial writers. (No publisher)
Mee Chang for Garden of Youth (1981) by Oh Junghee, a series of powerful stories that center on the struggles of domestic life during the Korean War, by a writer widely recognized as the master of the Korean short story. (No publisher)
Robyn Creswell for The Clash of Images (1995) by Abdelfattah Kilito, a hybrid bildungsroman, written in French, set in the medina of an unnamed Moroccan city. Growing up in a traditional world where the image is taboo, the protagonist is seduced by new American technologies of the image. (No publisher)
Brett Foster for Elemental Rebel: The Rime of Cecco Angiolieri (1260-1310?), a selection of impudent sonnets by a Sienese rival of Dante with a penchant for parodic wordplay. (Forthcoming from Princeton University Press)
Geoffrey Michael Goshgarian for The Remnants by Hagop Oshagan (1883-1948), a historical novel widely considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Armenian literature, written in the early 1930s “to save what remained of our people.” (No publisher)
Tess Lewis for That Didn’t Reassure the Children (2006) by Alois Hotschnig, a collection of disquieting stories about the mystery, fluidity and perils of intimacy, by a prize-winning Austrian writer renowned for his stylistic virtuosity. (No publisher)
Fayre Makeig for Mourning (2006), a selection of free verse poems by H.E. Sayeh, an eminent contemporary Iranian poet whose life and work span many of Iran’s political, cultural and literary upheavals. “Tell us, heaven, why the rain / pours from your eyes…” (No publisher)
Arvind Krishna Mehrotra for Poems of Kabir, a selection of 60 Hindi padas (songs) by India’s legendary mystic poet saint (1398?-1448?) who opposed all religious and social orthodoxies and oppositions. “But I’m wasting my time, / Says Kabir, / Even death’s bludgeon / About to crush your head / Won’t wake you up.” (No publisher)
Frederika Randall for Deliver Us from Evil by Luigi Meneghello (1922-2007), a darkly original memoir, ordered by theme rather than chronology, set in rural Italy when the Church and Il Duce ruled. The savage immediacy of childhood perception combines with amused and astutely ironic insights in an unsentimental human comedy. (No publisher)
Daniel Shapiro for Missing Persons, Animals and Artists (1999) by Roberto Ransom, a short story collection by an acclaimed young Mexican writer which explores the enigmas of art and the creative process with gentle irony and whimsical, at times fantastical, premises. (No publisher)
Chantal Wright for A Handful of Water (2008), poems written in German by Tzveta Sofronieva, a young Bulgarian-born poet, trained as a physicist and science historian, who also writes in Bulgarian and English. Joseph Brodsky said of her, “Listen carefully… She has something to say.” (No publisher)
Congratulations to all the winners, and I’m especially pleased to see Tess Lewis, Eric Abrahamsen of Paper-Republic) and Daniel Shapiro of the Americas Society. The unsigned books on this list usually find a publisher within days, so it’s possible this is already out of date . . . Which is great for the translators and authors, and means that I really have to get moving on contacting the right people about the projects that sound most interesting to me . . .
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .
The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .