Graphic novel wins SoA translation prize for the first time

Martin Reed

Martin Reed

Martin leads the SoA's Communications team. He oversees our strategic communications and campaign-based activities, including PR, social media, events and partnerships.
Sophie Yanow’s translation of Pretending is Lying celebrated in Scott Moncrieff Prize – one of seven prizes for literature in translation awarded at The British Library on 13 February 2019.

In a ceremony at the British Library £15,000 in prizes was awarded this evening to works of outstanding translation.

The 2018 Translation Prizes were awarded to books across a range of genres celebrating everything from short stories to art history in translations into English from Korean, Italian, German, French, Swedish, Spanish and Arabic. The TA First translation prize singled out ‘a mighty achievement’ in Janet Hong’s translation of The Impossible Fairytale from the Korean, while the Scott Moncrieff Prize celebrated a graphic novel for the first time with Sophie Yanow’s translation of Pretending is Lying winning the £1,000 prize.

The TA First Translation Prize

Winner: Janet Hong and her editor Ethan Nosowsky for a translation of The Impossible Fairytale by Han Yujoo (Tilted Axis Press) translated from Korean.

The judges said:

It is a monstrous world that Han Yujoo depicts, among a monstrous regiment of children, and it needed a concomitant style in English to match the singular, unnerving, word-playful, original, and the gulf between the pictograms of Korean and the alphabetical words of English made the task of carrying all Han’s meanings across intact particularly perilous. But somehow, Janet Hong, with phenomenal dexterity, balance and perseverance, takes it all in her stride to deliver a translation that would be extraordinary from anyone at any time, but is doubly so for being her very first book-length work. It is a mighty achievement, and a mighty book.

The TA First Translation Prize is an annual £2,000 prize for a debut literary translation into English published in the UK. The prize is shared between the translator and their editor. This year’s judges were Daniel Hahn, Philip Gwyn Jones and Margaret Jull Costa.

Sponsored by Daniel Hahn and the British Council.

The John Florio Prize

Winner: Gini Alhadeff for her translation of I Am the Brother of XX by Fleur Jaeggy (And Other Stories).

The judges said:

Gini Alhadeff has given us a flawless translation of twenty-one short stories by Fleur Jaeggy in which the Gothic, the fantastic, and the factual (there are stories about Calvino, Bachmann, Brodsky, and Oliver Sacks) are presented in a spare, crystalline prose that is direct and yet elusive, compassionate and yet icy.

Runner Up: Cristina Viti for her translation of Stigmata by Gëzim Hajdari (Shearsman Books).

A biennial award of £2,000 for translations into English of full- length Italian works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges were Dr. Marta Arnaldi and Professor Ann Hallamore Caesar.

Sponsored by the Italian Cultural Institute, ALCS and the Society of Authors.

The Schlegel-Tieck Prize

Winner: Tony Crawford for his translation of Wonder Beyond Belief by Navid Kermani (Polity Press).

Tony Crawford’s excellent translation is well-paced and beautifully written. He skillfully handles Kermani’s complex syntax and specialised vocabulary, conveying the fluency and elegance of the original despite these technical challenges. He pays careful attention to the register of Kermani’s prose, allowing the author’s wit to shine through and producing an English version which is both engaging and, often, highly amusing.

Runner Up: Tess Lewis for her translation of Kruso by Lutz Seiler (Scribe).

An annual award of £3,000 for translations into English of full-length German works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Dr. Benedict Schofield and Dr. Catherine Smale.

Sponsored by the Goethe-Institut.

The Scott Moncrieff Prize

Winner: Sophie Yanow for her translation of Pretending is Lying by Dominique Goblet (New York Review Comics).

Sophie Yanow’s translation bears witness brilliantly to the extraordinary symbiosis of image and text in Dominique Goblet’s graphic novel, gracefully taking on the constraints of the pre-drawn speech bubbles as well as the approximations of unsaid feelings (and sounds and animal cries) that also exceed them.

Runner Up: Frank Wynne for his translation of Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes (MacLehose Press).

An annual award of £1,000 for translations into English of full- length French works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Dr. Ruth Cruickshank and Michèle Roberts.

Sponsored by the Institut français du Royaume-Uni, ALCS and the Society of Authors.

The Bernard Shaw Prize

Winner: Frank Perry for his translation of Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs by Lina Wolff (And Other Stories).

Perry’s translation stays true to a complex and fragmented narrative and its many competing voices. He dexterously captures the dislocated, sometimes distracted tone that gives this novel its surreal qualities.

Runner Up: Deborah Bragan-Turner for her translation of The Parable Book by Per Olov Enquist (MacLehose Press).

A triennial award of £2,000 for translations into English of full-length Swedish language works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Karin Altenberg and Helen Sigeland.

Sponsored by the Embassy of Sweden and the Anglo-Swedish Literary Foundation.

The Premio Valle Inclán Prize

Winner: Megan McDowell for her translation of Seeing Red by Lina Meruane (Atlantic).

Seeing Red raises difficult questions about the line between love, pity, and sacrifice. Yet, there is a strain of dark humour running through the novel, including word play which rewards multiple readings. The distinctive style of the novel evokes Lina’s trauma, with sentences cut off mid-thought. Translator Megan McDowell expertly captures Meruane’s voice, making the brave decision not to make the text easier for an English reader.

Runner Up: Daniel Hahn for his translation of In the Land of Giants by Gabi Martínez (Scribe).

An annual prize of £2,000 for translations into English of full-length Spanish language works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Dr. Katie Brown and Professor Francis Lough.

Sponsored by ALCS and the Society of Authors.

The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize

Winner: Luke Leafgren for his translation of The President’s Gardens by Muhsin Al-Ramli (MacLehose Press).

Tender, funny, tragic, wise and poetic, The President’s Gardens is imbued with the richness and complexity of a region that has known so little peace over the last century. The translation reads smoothly and conveys beautifully the spirit and idiosyncrasies of the original.

An annual award of £3,000 for published translations from Arabic of full-length works of imaginative and creative writing of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Pete Ayrton, Georgia de Chamberet, Dr. Fadia Faqir, and Dr. Sophia Vasalou.

Sponsored by Omar Saif Ghobash and his family and the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature.

Enter the 2019 Translation Prizes

Submissions are now open for the 2019 prizes.

Winners, judges and shortlistees (photograph: Adrian Pope)

24 May 2023

Celebrating the gamut of prose, poetry and children’s literature, across 11 awards, including the inaugural ADCI (Authors with Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses) Literary Prize shortlist

11 May 2023

Celebrated crime writer announced as keynote speaker for annual Society of Authors’ Awards ceremony on 29 June

10 February 2023

If you missed the 2022 Translation Prizes award ceremony, you can watch the live stream, find out the winners and see photographs from the event at The British Library here