Eight literary translators have today (8 February 2023) shared a prize fund of £15,000 at this year’s Society of Authors’ Translation Prizes. Among them was joint winner of this year’s Banipal Prize, the late Humphrey Davies.
This year marked the first translation from Polish to win a Society of Authors Translation Prize, with Marta Dziurosz’s ‘measured’ and ‘truly astounding’ translation of Things I Didn’t Throw Out by Marcin Wicha winning the TA First Translation Prize. The prize is shared between her and her editors, Željka Marošević and Sophie Missing. Commenting on the winning translation, judge Ka Bradley said, ‘This book required a translator of astonishing emotional intelligence and linguistic deftness, and was fortunate to find one.’
Prizes were also awarded for translations from Italian, Spanish, Arabic, French, German and Hebrew.
The winners will be celebrated this evening at the Translation Prizes ceremony, held in the British Library and broadcast online. The ceremony will be the first in-venue SoA Translation Prizes since 2020.
Sarah Ardizzone’s winning translation of Men Don’t Cry by Faïza Guène was one of four ‘urgent and energetic novels […] concerned with the changing fortunes of African Countries’ on this year’s Scott Moncrieff shortlist. Judge Georgina Collins said, ‘Sarah Ardizzone has a talent for translating challenging multi-heritage dialogue across different generations and making spoken word and its rhythms sound very natural and believable. Few translators could do this so effectively.’
Commenting on the winning works, SoA Head of Fundraising, Grants and Prizes, Robyn Law, said:
I am never envious of the impossible job done by our judges, selecting winners from incredible shortlists, but every year they highlight the very best. It’s wonderful to see the work of celebrated international authors translated and made accessible to the English-speaking world and our written culture is all the richer for it.
The John Florio Prize for translation from Italian
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 Elena Minelli and Mario Petrucci.
Winner: Nicholas Benson and Elena Coda for a translation of My Karst and My City by Scipio Slataper (University of Toronto Press)
The judges said:
This is the kind of semi-technical text all too easily overlooked by prizes, so we are delighted with Benson and Coda for bringing to such brilliant attention Slataper’s smorgasbord of contrasting styles and concerns, ranging from his exquisite passages of sense-driven rural passion to his eclectic reflections on war, art and culture. Centred on a crucial phase of Italian modernism in Trieste, Slataper provides the varied source materials of poetic prose, autobiography, academic criticism, private letters, and essay-like thoughts, all contextualised and fleshed out by Coda’s formidable introduction. The scholarship and athleticism required to render this many-textured project into tonal English is nothing short of staggering. My Karst And My City is a masterwork of epic proportions, and a necessary reminder that academic translation can be linguistically vital as well as culturally important. (Mario Petrucci)
Runners-up: J Ockenden for a translation of Snow, Dog, Foot by Claudio Morandini (Peirene Press); and Tim Parks for translations of two books that were considered together by the judges, The House on the Hill and The Moon and the Bonfires by Cesare Pavese (Penguin Press)
Sponsored by the Italian Cultural Institute and the Society of Authors.
The 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 are Richard Gwyn and Karina Lickorish Quinn.
Winner: Annie McDermott for a translation of Wars of the Interior by Joseph Zárate (Granta)
The Judges said:
Zárate’s work is an achingly timely clarion call. Wars of the Interior depicts with stark vividness the devastation of the Amazon. The writing of the original is at times poetic, at times matter-of-fact and always equally moving and incisive. Annie McDermott’s translation is impeccable, capturing the poetry and precision of Zárate’s prose. Weeks after reading this book, I cannot shake its hold on me. (Karina Lickorish Quinn)
Runner-up: Julia Sanches for her translation of Slash and Burn by Claudia Hernández (And Other Stories)
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 Katharine Halls, Becki Maddock, Professor Susheila Nasta and chair Charis Olszok.
Winners: Humphrey Davies for a translation of The Men Who Swallowed the Sun (Hamdi Abu Golayyel) and Robin Moger for a translation of Slipping by Mohamed Kheir (Two Lines Press)
Of Humphrey Davies’ translation, the judges said:
The Men Who Swallowed the Sun is a phenomenal translation of a unique and exciting novel about a young Bedouin from Egypt who migrates to Libya under Gaddafi, and then onwards to Italy, hoping to make big bucks, have a good time, and avoid getting sent back to Egypt. The dense, stream-of-consciousness narration of its unlikeable but undeniably charismatic protagonist drags the reader immediately into the gritty surroundings that form the backdrop of this picaresque quest, and Humphrey Davies’s rendering impressively recreates the original’s effect.. (Katharine Halls)
Of Roger Moger’s translation, the judges said:
A subtle, evocative, and moving portrait of Cairo and Alexandria post-revolution and the psychological aftermath of the Arab Spring. Like the two main characters, Seif and Bahr, a struggling journalist and former exile, we are thrown into an almost apocalyptic world rendered deliberately unstable and disorientating. On the one hand, it is a threatening landscape of broken promises and shattered dreams; on the other the worlds of its two protagonists literally slip seamlessly between reality, memory, myth, and dream. An impressive novel, all the more forceful as it does not directly engage with the pain of the political context that is its subject but instead portrays the strength of human resilience in the face of trauma and the transformative power of the imagination. (Professor Susheila Nasta)
Sponsored by the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature and Omar Saif 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 are Katy Derbyshire and Ayça Türkoğlu.
Winner: Damion Searls for a translation of Where You Come From by Saša Stanišić (Jonathan Cape, Penguin Random House UK)
On behalf of the judges, Katy Derbyshire said:
In this astounding translation, Searls achieves the seemingly impossible: he captures the novel’s remarkable breadth of tone – from gentle humour to profound sadness and righteous anger, sometimes in the same sentence. As Stanišić’s narrator ponders the German and Bosnian languages, the migrant experience and the nature of memory, Searls somersaults his way through this playful book. His keen sense of rhythm and celebratory approach to the translator’s task make Where You Come From as much a joy to read in English as it is in German.
Runner-up: Steph Morris for a translation of It All Tastes of Farewell: Diaries, 1964-1970 by Brigitte Reimann (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 are Georgina Collins, Saima Mir, and Susan Wicks.
Winner: Sarah Ardizzone for a translation of Men Don’t Cry by Faïza Guène (Cassava Republic Press)
The judges said:
Men Don’t Cry is an exceptional translation in so many ways. Sarah Ardizzone has a talent for translating challenging multi-heritage dialogue across different generations and making spoken word and its rhythms sound very natural and believable. Few translators could do this so effectively. The tone, register, and stylistic features of the text are all successfully rendered in English, especially the humour, which isn’t always easy to capture in translation for a different cultural audience. I also admire the forward-thinking presentation of this book which doesn’t italicise/exoticise or over-gloss words from non-standard French/English, also making for a much more fluid read. A translation to be admired! (Georgina Collins)
Runner-up: Lara Vergnaud for a translation of The Ardent Swarm by Yamen Manai (Amazon Crossing)
Sponsored by Institut français du Royaume-Uni.
The TA First Translation Prize
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 Saba Ahmed, Ka Bradley and Daniel Hahn.
Winners: Marta Dziurosz and editors Željka Marošević and Sophie Missingfor a translation of Things I Didn’t Throw Out by Marcin Wicha (Daunt Books Publishing). Translated from the Polish.
The judges said:
A truly astounding achievement – a confident, graceful translation, so taut and considered that it felt seamless. If translating humour is difficult, imagine translating nuanced, complex wit inflected by grief. This book required a translator of astonishing emotional intelligence and linguistic deftness, and was fortunate to find one. (Ka Bradley)
Runners-up: Jo Heinrich and editor Gesche Ipsen for a translation of Marzahn, Mon Amour by Katja Oskamp (Peirenne Press), translated from German; and Abigail Wender and editor Katy Derbyshire for a translation of The Bureau of Past Management by Iris Hanika (V&Q Books), translated from German.
Sponsored by the British Council and Daniel Hahn.
The TLS-Risa-Domb/Porjes Prize for translations from Hebrew
A triennial £2,000 prize for translations into English of full-length Hebrew works of fiction or non-fiction, of general interest and literary merit. This year’s judges were Nicholas de Lange, Judith Olszowy-Schlanger and Tsila Ratner.
Winner: Linda Yechiel for a translation of House on Endless Waters by Emuna Elon (Allen & Unwin, Atlantic Books)
The judges said:
This novel features a contemporary Israeli writer and his discovery of his roots through the moving story of his mother’s tragic experience in Amsterdam during the Second World War. The committee felt that the translator captured very well not only the lyrical style of the narration but also the realia and mentality of the Dutch historical background.
Sponsored by The Edith and Ferdinand Charitable Trust and administered by Jewish Book Week.
Really enjoyed the ceremony (online) but was sorry that only one translator read from their work. Annie McDermott’s brief extract from “Wars of the Interior” gave a taste of the work itself. (Did I imagine that in 2020 some translators read both in the original language and in their translation?)
Thanks for your comment, Andrew. Yes we’ve had more readings in the past and a few people commented on their absence, so it’s something we’ll be reviewing for next year. Annie’s reading was great.