Sarah Death wins the Bernard Shaw Prize for translation for the third 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.
The literary translator wins for the third time at the Society of Authors’ annual Translation Prizes for a ‘flawless’ translation from Swedish. Newcomer Jackie Smith wins the TA First Translation Prize for a debut translation.

Eight literary translators shared a total prize fund worth almost £19,000 today (Thursday 10 February) at the Society of Authors’ annual Translation Prizes, with Sarah Death’s translation of Letters from Tove by Tove Jansson and edited by Boel Westin and Helen Svensson (Sort of Books) taking home the Bernard Shaw Prize.

Prizes were awarded for translations from Swedish, Spanish, Arabic, German, French, Dutch, as well as for a debut literary translation from any language, with the winners announced in an online ceremony sponsored by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS).

The Bernard Shaw Prize is an award of £2,000 for translations into English of full-length Swedish language works of literary merit and general interest. Until now it has been a triennial award but it will become biennial from 2022, with the next prize to be awarded in 2024. Sarah Death previously won the Bernard Shaw Prize in 2003 for The Angel House by Kerstin Ekman (Norvik Press) and again in 2006 for Snow by Ellen Mattson (Jonathan Cape).

This year’s judges were Charlotte Berry and Annika Lindskog. They named Sarah Death’s translation as the ‘stand-out contribution’, with Charlotte Berry commenting:

Sarah Death is to be congratulated for her flawless translation which was a delight to read… This translation confirms my view of Death as one of the foremost British translators working today and she undoubtedly deserves recognition for showcasing Swedish literature to a much wider audience.

‘one of the foremost British translators working today’

We also saw Jackie Smith win the TA First Translation Prize for her first literary translation, a translation from German of An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky (MacLehose Press). This annual £2,000 prize is for a debut literary translation into English from any language. It is shared between the translator and their editor.

This year’s judges were Daniel Hahn, Vineet Lal, and Annie McDermott. Commenting on the win, Annie McDermott said:

This is an astonishing achievement. Every intricate, seamlessly unfurling sentence of Jackie Smith’s translation feels like a work of art – particularly impressive given the shape-shifting nature of this book, which moves through different genres, voices and historical periods.

The winners

The Bernard Shaw Prize for translaton from Swedish

A triennial award, changing to biennial from 2022, of £2,000 for translations into English of full-length Swedish language works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges were Charlotte Berry and Annika Lindskog.

WINNER: Sarah Death for a translation of Letters from Tove by Tove Jansson and edited by Boel Westin and Helen Svensson (Sort of Books)

The judges said:

Sarah Death is to be congratulated for her flawless translation which was a delight to read. Somehow she always manages to pick just the right word, turn of phrase, register, whilst keeping the intended meaning but without straying too far away – how does she do it?

This translation confirms my view of Death as one of the foremost British translators working today and she undoubtedly deserves recognition for showcasing Swedish literature to a much wider audience  (Charlotte Berry)

Joint runners-up: Amanda Doxtater for a translation of Crisis by Karin Boye (Norvik Press), and Sarah Death for a translation of Chitambo by Hagar Olsson (Norvik Press)

Sponsored by the Embassy of Sweden, London.

Premio Valle Inclán for translation from Spanish

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 were Margaret Jull Costa and Sarah Maitland.

WINNER: Fionn Petch for a translation of A Musical Offering by Luis Sagasti (Charco Press)

The judges said:

Fionn Petch’s translation of A Musical Offering is equally assured, and it was that combination of perfect, confident prose and fascinating content that made us choose it as our winner this year.’ (Margaret Jull Costa)

‘In addition to the beauty of the prose in translation, the degree of technical research that has gone into Fionn Petch’s meticulous translation makes this work nothing short of outstanding. (Sarah Maitland)

Runner-up: Lisa Dillman for a translation of A Luminous Republic by Andrés Barba (Granta)

Sponsored by the Society of Authors.

The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for translation from Arabic

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 were Roger Allen, Rosemarie Hudson, Ronak Hosni, and Caroline McCormick.

WINNER: Sarah Enany for a translation of The Girl with Braided Hair by Rasha Adly (Hoopoe an Imprint of AUC Press)

The judges said:

A unanimous choice for the excellence and readability of both its original and translated versions.

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

The Schlegel-Tieck Prize for translation from German

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 were Jen Calleja and Alexander Starritt.

WINNER: Karen Leeder for a translation of Porcelain: Poem on the Downfall of My City by Durs Grünbein (Seagull Books)

The judges said:

We were miraculously unanimous in our selection of Porcelain. Reading Karen Leeder’s translation felt like experiencing a genius collaboration between peers, it is simply stunning work that I would encourage everyone to read. (Jen Calleja)

Runner-up: Simon Pare for a translation of Cox; or, The Course of Time by Christoph Ransmayr (Seagull Books)

Sponsored by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, London.

The Scott Moncrieff Prize for translation from French

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 were Gini Alhadeff and Ian Patterson.

WINNER: Sam Taylor for a translation of The Invisible Land by Hubert Mingarelli (Granta)

The judges said:

The Invisible Land, a work of “bleak genius” by Hubert Mingarelli, translated by Sam Taylor, was a book we could both easily agree on. It is so seamlessly delivered into English that one forgets it’s a translation… Any French writer would be lucky to have him as translator. (Gini Alhadeff)

Runner-up: Emily Boyce for a translation of A Long Way Off by Pascal Garnier (Gallic Books)

Sponsored by the Institut français du Royaume-Uni.

The TA First Translation Prize for debut translation from any language

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, Vineet Lal, and Annie McDermott.

WINNERS: Jackie Smith and editor Bill Swainson for a translation of An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky (MacLehose Press)

The judges said:

This is an astonishing achievement. Every intricate, seamlessly unfurling sentence of Jackie Smith’s translation feels like a work of art – particularly impressive given the shape-shifting nature of this book, which moves through different genres, voices and historical periods as it takes in subjects as varied as Caspian tigers, East Germany’s Palace of the Republic and a collection of maps of the moon. (Annie McDermott)

Runners-up: Padma Viswanathan and editor Edwin Frank for a translation of São Bernardo by Graciliano Ramos (New York Review Books)

Sponsored by Daniel Hahn and the British Council.

The Vondel Translation Prize for translation from Dutch or Flemish

A biennial award of €5,000 for translations into English of full-length Dutch or Flemish works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges were Susan Massotty, Jane Draycott and Michele Hutchison.

WINNER: David Doherty for a translation of Summer Brother by Jaap Robben (World Editions)

The judges said:

Doherty writes with a propulsive rhythm, and delicately follows all the metrical shifts in Jaap Robben’s Summer Brother, a compelling and filmic novel. Doherty’s talent shines especially brightly in the colloquial exchanges between the characters, creating an idiolect for each, with an ear akin to that of a playwright. (Michele Hutchinson)

Runner-up: David McKay for a translation of Adrift in the Middle Kingdom by J.J. Slauerhoff (Handheld Press)

Sponsored by the Dutch Foundation for Literature.

The Goethe-Institut Award for new translation

A biennial award of €1,000 for the best translation from German into English of a chosen text. This year’s text was an excerpt from Schwitters by Ulrike Draesner. The winner also attends the Leipzig Book Fair, as well as the International Translators’ meeting organised by the Literary Colloquium Berlin. This year’s judges were Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp and Steph Morris.

WINNER: Sharon Howe

The judges said:

Consistently fluid where the original flowed, identifying all idioms and finding English equivalents, yet also experimental and playful where there were ruptures in the flow of the original requiring creative risks… one of the few entrants to identify that schafzungengrau in a list of grey shades referred to the grey-green leaves of yarrow, a detail which demonstrates the translator was genuinely immersed in the logic of the text as a whole, its location and protagonists, never just translating words. (Steph Morris)

Runners-up: George Robarts and Robert Sargant

Sponsored by the Goethe-Institut.

For further information please contact Robyn Law in the SoA Prizes Team – prizes@societyofauthors.org

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