The recipients of this year’s PEN/Heim Translation Fund grants were just announced today, with thirteen projects (featuring fourteen translators) working from nine different languages (Spanish, German, Romanian, Chinese, French, Italian, Swedish, Russian, and Indonesian). Each project will receive $3,300 in prize money.
Congrats to everyone who won, and here are a few of the highlights (meaning people I’m friends with, or projects that sound most interesting to me):
Isabel Cole for her translation of At the Burning Abyss by Franz Fühmann, the great dissident patriarch of East German letters. This challenging, multifaceted, genre-bending book is Fühmann’s highly personal (auto)biographical response to the great Expressionist poet Georg Trakl. Cole’s translation captures the richness and depth of Fühmann’s complex magnum opus. (To be published by Seagull Publishing)
Sean Cotter for his translation of Mateiu Caragiale’s Rakes of the Old Court, a relentlessly funny, dark, flamboyant, twisted text that Cotter captures perfectly in this audacious and over-the-top translation. Written in the early 20th century, the text has a contemporary voice that is ahead of its time. (Available for publication)
Edward Gauvin for the translation of Jean Ferry’s The Conductor and Other Tales, the only collection of prose fiction written by Ferry, an illustrious screenwriter associated with a number of avant-garde movements, including the College of Metaphysics and Oulipo. Gauvin’s translation of his work is vivid and authoritative. (To be published by Wakefield Press)
Elizabeth Harris for Tristano Dies by Antonio Tabucchi. This rich and textured translation rises to the challenge of the complex, exuberant Italian text – its voice, musicality, layering, and depth – and allows the reader to follow all of its twists and turns. (To be published by Archipelago)
Eugene Ostashevsky and Daniel Mellis for their translation of Tango with Cows by Vasily Kamensky. Originally printed on wall-paper and decorated with cubo-futurist drawings by the Burliuk brothers, this collection introduced the “ferro-concrete” poem and other striking verbo-visual innovations. A perfect team for the task, Ostashevsky and Mellis are able to provide both the linguistic and visual expertise that this Russian futuristic text demands. (Available for publication)
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .
It’s been almost a year since the publication of Nowhere to Be Found by Bae Suah, but despite being included on the 2015 PEN Translation award longlist, and some pretty vocal support from key indie presses, the book has. . .
Jorge Eduardo Benavides’ novel La paz de los vencidos (The Peace of the Defeated) takes the form of a diary written by a nameless Peruvian thirty-something intellectual slumming it in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands. Recently relocated. . .
Anyone with any interest at all in contemporary Moroccan writing must start with Souffles. A cultural and political journal, Souffles (the French word for “breaths”) was founded in 1966 by Abdellatif Laâbi and Mostafa Nissabouri. Run by a group of. . .
Randall Jarrell once argued a point that I will now paraphrase and, in doing so, over-simplify: As a culture, we need book criticism, not book reviews. I sort of agree, but let’s not get into all of that. Having finished. . .