‘Mind expanding’, ‘timeless and timely’ announcing the 2020 Translation Prizes shortlists

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.

24 November 2020

Thirty-five translations from six languages: announcing the six shortlists for the 2020 Society of Authors’ Translation Prizes.

The Society of Authors has today announced six shortlists for its annual Translation Prizes. Sharing in a total prize fund worth £13,000, the winners will be announced in an online celebration on Thursday 11 February 2021, sponsored by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS).

The 35 shortlisted works, translated from seven languages, were described by the judges as ‘timeless and timely’ and ‘mind expanding and enriching’.

Noting the wide range of the works, covering novels, short fiction, poetry and biography – ‘everything from 19th-century poetry to 21st-century detective fiction, from colonial-era short stories to mafia melodrama’ – the judges remarked on the ‘sheer breadth’ and timeliness of these stunning translations into English from Italian, Spanish, German, French, Turkish, Hungarian and Arabic. 

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The John Florio Prize

‘everything from 19th-century poetry to 21st-century detective fiction, from colonial-era short stories to mafia melodrama’

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 are Robert Gordon and Rosa Mucignat.

The shortlist

  • Anne Milano Appel for a translation of A Devil Comes to Town by Paolo Maurensig (World Edition)
  • Ekin Oklap for a translation of Flowers Over the Inferno by Ilaria Tuti (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) 
  • Jenny McPhee for a translation of The Kremlin Ball by Curzio Malaparte (New York Review Books) 
  • Taije Silverman and Marina Della Putta Johnston for a translation of Selected Poems of Giovanni Pascoli by Giovanni Pascoli (Princeton University Press)
  • Howard Curtis for a translation of Soul of the Border by Matteo Righetto (Pushkin Press) 
  • Jhumpa Lahiri for a translation of Trick by Domenico Starnone (Europa Editions)

The judges said of this year’s shortlist:

The field for the John Florio Prize this year was immensely rich, showing the breadth and depth of contemporary Italian writing, as well as the potential for rediscovery of forgotten fragments of the literary tradition. Through the outstanding work of their translators, I enjoyed reading everything from 19th-century poetry to 21st-century detective fiction, from colonial-era short stories to mafia melodrama.

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


The Premio Valle Inclán

‘A certain melancholy air of reminiscence hangs over many of the works chosen’

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 Imogen Choi and James Womack. 

The shortlist

  • Richard Gwyn for a translation of Impossible Loves by Darío Jaramillo (Carcanet Poetry) 
  • Abigail Parry and Serafina Vick for a translation of A Little Body are Many Parts by Legna Rodríguez Iglesias (Bloodaxe Books and the Poetry Translation Centre)
  • Anne McLean for a translation of Lord of All the Dead by Javier Cercas (MacLehose Press)
  • Margaret Jull Costa and Sophie Hughes for a translation of Mac and His Problem by Enrique Vila-Matas (Vintage, PRH)
  • Megan McDowell for a translation of Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin (Oneworld)
  • Katherine Silver for a translation of The Word of the Speechless by Julio Ramón Ribeyro (New York Review Books)

The judges said of this year’s shortlist:

The judging process was hard at every level, especially that of reducing the longlist down to a shortlist: there were no books that felt like they didn’t deserve their place, and several that missed the cut by an almost arbitrary whisker … The shortlist ended up covering a range of styles and types of writing: short stories and poetry as well as novels. A certain melancholy air of reminiscence hangs over many of the works chosen, though whether this is a result of the judges’ own prejudices or the times we are living in, or something particular to Spanish-language literature, is uncertain.

Sponsored by ALCS and the Society of Authors.


The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize

‘…the judges noted a rich diversity of styles, themes and settings ranging from sprawling cities to humble villages’

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 Paul Starkey, Omar al-Qattan, Justine Jordan and Nii Ayikwei Parkes.

The shortlist

  • Jonathan Wright for a translation of The Egyptian Assasin by Ezzedine C. Fishere (Hoopoe an Imprint of AUC Press)
  • Sophia Vasalou for a translation of The Old Woman and the River by Ismail Fahd Ismail (Interlink Books)
  • Alexander E. Elinson for a translation of A Shimmering Red Fish Swims with Me by Youssef Fadel (Hoopoe an Imprint of AUC Press) 
  • Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp and Sue Copeland for a translation of Trees for the Absentees by Ahlam Bsharat (Neem Tree Press)
  • Kay Heikkinen for a translation of Velvet by Huzama Habayeb (Hoopoe an Imprint of AUC Press) 

The judges said of this year’s shortlist:

In selecting the shortlisted entries, the judges noted a rich diversity of styles, themes and settings ranging from sprawling cities to humble villages. It was particularly noticeable that several of the works selected for the shortlist revolve around the lives and dreams of ordinary people, providing intimate insights into the societies concerned, which themselves cover the full span of the Arab world, from Morocco to Iraq. Writings of this sort pose particular challenges and demand a high level of sensitivity to the subtleties of the original Arabic on the part of the translator; we are happy to report that these qualities were in ample evidence not only in the shortlisted entries but also in many of the other translations submitted for the prize.

Sponsored by the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature.


The Schlegel-Tieck Prize

‘Readers could not ask for better windows
into German writing, contemporary and past’

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 Steffan Davies and Dora Osborne.

The shortlist

  • Joel Agee for a translation of Agathe: Or, the Forgotten Sister by Robert Musil (New York Review Books) 
  • Imogen Taylor for a translation of Beside Myself by Sasha Marianna Salzmann (Text Publishing) 
  • Karen Leeder for a translation of The Sex of the Angels, the Saints in their Heaven by Raoul Schrott (Seagull Book)
  • Sinead Crowe and Rachel McNicholl for a translation of The Storyteller by Pierre Jarawan (World Editions)
  • Martyn Crucefix for a translation of These Numbered Days by Peter Huchel (Shearsman Books)
  • Jamie Bulloch for a translation of You Would Have Missed Me by Birgit Vanderbeke (Peirene Press)

The judges said of this year’s shortlist:

It was a pleasure to judge this year’s Schlegel-Tieck competition, and a genuinely uplifting experience to see the sheer breadth and standard of literary translations from German to English in just one year. All the translations on our shortlist, and many more which we couldn’t include, are impressively high in standard: they reflect the range, creativity and quality of the translation work being done from German at present. Readers could not ask for better windows into German writing, contemporary and past.

Sponsored by the Goethe-Institut.


The Scott Moncrieff Prize

‘both timeless and timely, giving a voice to the voiceless and to contemporary issues’

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 Aude Campmas and  Peter Dunwoodie.

The shortlist

  • Frank Wynne for a translation of Animalia by Jean-Baptiste del Amo (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
  • Geoffrey Strachan for a translation of The Archipelago of Another Life by Andreï Makine (MacLehose Press)
  • Jordan Stump for a translation of The Cheffe by Marie NDiaye (MacLehose Press) 
  • Aneesa Abbas Higgins for a translation of A Girl Called Eel by Ali Zamir (Jacaranda Books)
  • Mark Hutchinson for a translation of The Governesses by Anne Serre (Les Fugitives) 
  • Natasha Lehrer for a translation of Memories of Low Tide by Chantal Thomas (Pushkin Press)

The judges said of this year’s shortlist:

These books, five novels and one memoir, are both timeless and timely, giving a voice to the voiceless and to contemporary issues … While ranging from animalistic dystopia to the dreamscapes of erotic fairytale, from internal monologue to obsessive, concise observation, from deliquescence to resilience, they share a remarkable attention to the material, natural and sensual world, and its impact on the trajectory of their characters.

Sponsored by the Institut français du Royaume-Uni.


The TA First Translation Prize

‘mind-expanding and enriching’

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 are Maureen Freely, Daniel Hahn and Max Porter.

The shortlist

  • Laura Francis and editor Ka Bradley for a translation of The Collection by Nina Leger (Granta Books). Translated from French.
  • Annie McDermott and editor Lizzie Davis for a translation of Empty Words by Mario Levrero (And Other Stories). Translated from Spanish.
  • Nicholas Glastonbury and editor Saba Ahmed for a translation of Every Fire You Tend by Sema Kaygusuz (Tilted Axis Press). Translated from Turkish.
  • Ruth Diver and editor Elise Williams for a translation of The Little Girl on the Ice Floe by Adélaïde Bon (MacLehose Press). Translated from French.
  • Nicholas Royle and editor Tim Shearer for a translation of Pharricide by Vincent de Swarte (Confingo Publishing). Translated from French.
  • Owen Good and editor Bishan Samaddar for a translation of Pixel by Krisztina Tóth (Seagull Books). Translated from Hungarian.

The judges said of this year’s shortlist:

Few things amaze and interest me more than literary translation. It strikes me as miraculous that I can read these books. The process has been mind-expanding and enriching. I feel permanently indebted to every translator and publisher for making it possible for me to meet these writers’ work.

Sponsored by Daniel Hahn and the British Council.


Share your support

Show your support for the 2020 Translation Prizes on social media by downloading our banners, and get inspiration for tweets and Facebook posts.

Click on a prize below to download a celebratory shortlist Twitter and Facebook banner:

Instagram:

The John Florio Prize
The Premio Valle Inclán Prize
The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize 
The Schlegel-Tiek Prize
The Scott Moncrieff Prize 
The TA First Translation Prize

Suggested tweets:

Congratulations to the shortlisted translators for the @soc_of_authors Translation Prizes 2020 – check them out here: authr.uk/TP-20-shortlists #TranslationPrizes20

Hurrah for 2020 TA First Translation Prize shortlist – for debut literary translations into English. Prize shared between translator and editor! #TranslationPrizes20 authr.uk/TP-20-shortlists

Excellent line-up of translations for the @soc_of_authors Translation Prizes 2020. Winner announced February 2021. Check them out: authr.uk/TP-20-shortlists #TranslationPrizes20 

Suggested Facebook posts:

The Society of Authors has announced the 2020 Translation Prizes shortlists, sharing in a total prize fund worth almost £13,000. Winners will be announced in February 2021. See the line-up here: authr.uk/TP-20-shortlists

Congratulations to all the shortlisted translators and editors in the Society of Authors’ Translation Prizes 2020 – including the TA First Translation Prize for debut literary translations into English. A stunning line-up. Check them out: authr.uk/TP-20-shortlists


With thanks to the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) for support.

The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS) is a not-for-profit organisation started by writers for the benefit of all types of writers. Owned by its members, ALCS collects money due for secondary uses of writers’ work. It is designed to support authors and their creativity, ensure they receive fair payment and see their rights are respected. It promotes and teaches the principles of copyright and campaigns for a fair deal. It represents over 100,000 members, and since 1977 has paid around £500 million to writers (alcs.co.uk).​

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