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)
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
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. . .