19 March 08 | Chad W. Post

The 2008 PEN Translation Fund is one of the most interesting grants out there for literary translators. Established in 2003 thanks to a gift from an anonymous donor, this fund awards $2,000-$3,000 a year to a small group of projects (usually around 10).

Most years about half of the recipients already have publishers lined up, and the other half generally find them after receiving the award.

This year is pretty interesting—none of eight projects receiving funding have a publisher lined up. (I’m sure that won’t last long.)

As always, it’s a great list of books and translators:

  • Bernard Adams’ translation from the Hungarian of Dezsó Kosztolányi’s 1933 interlinking sequence of stories Kornél Esti, which takes its title from the name of the central character, who is the embodiment of senseless revolt, irresponsibility and latent cruelty. A leading Hungarian critic summed up the work in a phrase: “Lack of restraint restrained…” (No publisher)
  • Jeffrey Angles’ translation from the Japanese of Twelve Perspectives, the 1970 memoir of Mutsuo Takahashi, in which the prominent poet describes his youth and sexual coming of age against the backdrop of the rise of the Japanese empire and World War II. Yukio Mishima wrote glowingly of this book’s “firm prose that shines with a dark luster much like a set of drawers crafted by a master of old,” and praised it for its “marvelous sense of perception.” (No publisher)
  • Andrea Lingenfelter’s translation from the Chinese of Annie Baobei’s novel Padma, the story of two disaffected city-dwellers who set out on a quest-like trek in a rugged and remote area of Tibet. Baobei (pen name of Li Jie) first came to prominence as an Internet writer in 1998 and since then has become one of China’s most popular writers, noted for her candid portrayal of alienated urban youth. (No publisher)
  • Jessica Moore’s translation from the French of Jean-François Beauchemin’s 2004 novel Turkana Boy. Written in poetic prose fragments veined with rich and often startling language and surrealistic imagery, Turkana Boy depicts a father’s grief after the unexplained disappearance of his twelve-year-old son. Its author has been called “one of the best-kept secrets of Québécois literature.” (No publisher).
  • Sean Redmond’s translation from the medieval Latin of Felix Fabri’s 1483 travel memoir Another Holy Land: Felix Fabri’s Voyage to Medieval Egypt. Never before translated into English, Books 8 and 9 of Fabri’s celebrated Wanderings in the Holy Land contain a fascinating description of Egypt and especially Cairo, “the largest city of the entire world”: “There was . . . such a clamor and crowding of men that I cannot describe it. So many lights and torches, so much dancing about, as if it were the joy of all the world and not just in this one place but in every quarter.” (No publisher)
  • Mira Rosenthal’s translation of Colonies, 77 sonnets by the young Polish poet Tomasz Rózycki, including “Her Majesty’s Fleet”: “I played alone against the computer. I was/ king of a poor country in Central Europe / that became a superpower thanks to my sound /politics and trade . . .” (No publisher)
  • Damion Searls’s translation of The Freeloader and other stories by the classic Dutch writer Nescio. Latin for “I don’t know,” Nescio was the pen name of J.H.F. Grönloh, (1882-1961), co-director of the Holland-Bombay Trading Company. He is one of the world’s great portrayers of enthusiasm, optimism and the sheer joy of artists in their youth. Long recognized as one of the most important writers in the Dutch language, Nescio has never before been translated into English. (No publisher).
  • Simon Wickham-Smith’s translation from the Mongolian of The Battle for Our Land Has Begun, poems and political writings by Ochirbatyn Dashbalbar (1957-1999). Already a popular literary figure when he was elected to the Great State Khural in Mongolia’s first democratic elections (1992), Dashbalbar’s passionate concern for the preservation of Mongolia’s culture and heritage led to a dovetailing of the poetic and the political in his life and work. A few months before his death, he began to fear he was being poisoned by agents of the state; the cause of his death remains unknown. (Dashbalbar Foundation, Mongolia / no U.S. publisher)

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