Translation Prizes 2003

On Monday, September 22, the 2003 Translation Prizes were awarded in London, at the Queen Elizabeth Hall. After this, Tariq Ali delivered the NESTA 2003 Sebald Lecture, "Language and Power", which concluded two days of readings and workshops on contemporary literature in translation.

Michèle Roberts presented this year's prizes for Literary Translation. She is a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, home of the British Centre for Literary Translation (www.literarytranslation.com), co-administrators of the prizes with the Society of Authors (www.societyofauthors.org). Before awarding the prizes, she set the tone perfectly. The prize winners were a diverse group of people. Translators are usually unsung in critical circles but without them many of the great classics would remain unknown in the English-speaking world. Professor Roberts explained translating was something undertaken for love not money, the financial awards and recognition being small.

This year she was pleased to offer the best of translators some hard cash for their efforts, see side panel. The prizes are the climax of a two-day festival of literary translation rounded off with the Sebald Lecture delivered by Tariq Ali on language and power. The theme of Ali's lecture was the dominance of English language due to the ascendancy of the USA. Whilst he takes a critical stance on American hegemony and in particularly the USA policy in the Middle East, he notes the benefit of all the world literature that is translated into English.

Talking hard cash, it is interesting to note the diversity of funding sources for these prizes. Cash comes from a variety of places. NESTA (www.nesta.org.uk) was established by the UK Parliament in 1998 with an endowment of the National Lottery, they fund the overall event. Each prize is sponsored by national foundations or foreign embassies reflecting the national cultural aspirations of each country. It is interesting to note the absence of Italian from the prizes, especially with the large Italian community in the UK and the work of the Italian Cultural Institute, also no translation prizes from the Celtic languages. The prizes reflect the interests of sponsoring bodies, though are they one step closer to a world literature? And no prizes for Russian translators!

The Prizes

Vondel Prize - Dutch or Flemish
Winner: Sam Garrett for Tim Krabbé's The Rider (Bloomsbury)
Runner Up: Susan Massotty for Cees Nooteboom's All Souls Day (Picador)

Scott Moncrieff Prize - French
Winner: Linda Asher for Franco-Czech writer Milan Kundera's Ignorance (Faber and Faber)
Runner Up: Carol Brown Janeway for Yasmina Reza's Desolation (Hamish Hamilton)
For more information, www.frenchbooknews.org.uk

Schlegel-Tieck Prize - German
Winner: Anthea Bell for Karen Duve's Rain (Bloomsbury)
Runner Up: Michael Horfmann for Gert Horfmann's Luck (Harvill)
For more information, www.goethe.de or www.new-books-in-german.com

Premio Vallé-Inclan - Spainish
Winner: Sam Richard for Benjamin Prado's Not Only Fire (Faber and Faber)
Runner Up: Margaret Sayers Peden for Arturo Perez-Reverte's The Nautical Chart (Picador)
For more information, www.londres.cervantes.es

Bernard Shaw Prize - Swedish
Winner: Sarah Death for Kerstin Ekman's The Angel House (Norvik Press)
Runner Up: Tom Geddes for Yorgny Lindgren's Sweetness (Harvill)

Corneliu M. Popescu Prize - European Poetry
Sponsored by the Ratiu Foundation (founded by Ion and Elisabeth Ratiu in 1978 to promote Romanian history and culture)
Winner: David Constantine for Hans Magnus Enzensberger's Lighter than Air (Bloodaxe Books)
For more information, www.ratiufamilyfoundation.com and www.poetrysociety.org.uk

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Copyright ╘ 2003 by Melvyn Dresner
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