2015 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Winners

The PEN/America Translation Fund, now celebrating its twelfth year, is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s competition. The Fund received a record number of applications this year—226 total—spanning a wide array of languages of origin, genres, and eras. From this vast field of applicants, the Fund’s Advisory Board—Esther Allen, Mitzi Angel, Peter Blackstock, Howard Goldblatt, Sara Khalili, Michael F. Moore*, Declan Spring, and Alex Zucker—has selected sixteen projects which will each receive a grant of $3,100 to assist in their completion (*Voting Chair of the PEN/Heim Advisory Board).

“Translation is the lifeblood of literature. The PEN/Heim Translation Fund is at the very center of our lives as readers, making clear each year the richness and variety of what is being done in other languages, thus adding to the freedom of the word to move us and change us.”

—Colm Tóibín, Chair, PEN World Voices Festival

Among the recipients:

Sophie Seita for her translation of Subsisters: Selected Poems, by Uljana Wolf. Wolf’s globalized, border-crossing poetry seems uniquely disposed to translation while also presenting many challenges. Sophie Seita’s rendition remixes Wolf’s German-English mélange to create a translation that is at once new and yet also brilliantly reflects the original. (Forthcoming from Belladonna*)

they say: and another committee, i say: pffft seriously. and they clear the room,
disintegrated by my relentlessness. and yet i do not feel krank! unchaperoned, although it
doesn’t look nice. until the doors open and out onto the streets. i do not mean this locally.
elsewhere i do. they say: ten things changed in the mirror room. i say: ten faces you’ll
erinner soon. i know they are changing things.

 

Stephan Delbos and Tereza Novická for their translation of The Absolute Gravedigger, the culmination of Vítězslav Nezval’s work as the leading poet of Czech surrealism. Published in 1937, this book of poems is not only a dark and prescient avant-garde document of Europe in crisis, but highlights Prague as the twin capital of surrealism with Paris. Delbos and Novická do us all a service with their devoted translation. (Forthcoming from Twisted Spoon Press)

Adriana X. Jacobs for her translation of The Truffle Eye, the 2013 debut collection of poems by Vaan Nguyen. Born in Israel to Vietnamese refugees, Nguyen, writing in Hebrew, explores points of contact and friction between her Vietnamese heritage and her native-born Israeli identity. As Jacobs notes, the truffle resists domestication, and she skillfully incorporates this resistance into her inspired translation. (Available for publication)

Dong Li for his translation of The Gleaner Song, by Chinese poet Song Lin. In pieces selected by the poet and translator from thirty years of published work, the poet has engaged the world, East and West, creating a landscape of his extensive travels. Varying in form from short lyrics to long, serial poems, Song has, in the words of his accomplished translator, produced a “personal anthropology of our migratory world.” (Available for publication)

Meg Matich for her exquisite translations of Cold Moons, a collection of deceptively simple ecopoetry by Icelandic poet Magnús Sigurðsson who was born in 1984. She has deftly rendered the prosody of the young poet’s short, highly cadenced, enjambed verse in lines of images drawn from nature, often in the context of incursions by the modern world into this sparsely populated land of poets and sagas. (Available for publication)

Rajiv Mohabir for his translation of Lalbihari Sharma’s Holi Songs of Demerara. Published in 1916, Sharma’s collection of folksongs is the only known literary work to be written by an indentured Indo-Caribbean writer. One of hundreds of Indians indentured to work the sugarcane fields in Guyana, Sharma’s mesmerizing songs, in Mohabir’s deft and elegant translation, tell of life on the plantations, of labor, love, loss, and longing. (Available for publication)

Will Schutt for The Selected Poems of Edoardo Sanguineti. In his sparkling, playful and dynamic versions, Schutt introduces the English reader to the full sweep of Sanguineti’s protean oeuvre, from the neo-avantgardist of the early ’60s to the more introspective romantic poet of the later years. This is the first comprehensive English translation of one of post-war Italy’s most important poets. (Available for publication)

Simon Wickhamsmith for The End of the Dark Era, by Mongolian poet Tseveendorjin Oidov. This book of about a hundred poems is one of the few avant-garde collections to come out of that region. Simon Wickhamsmith’s translations bring the poems across eloquently and beautifully. (Available for publication)

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