The PEN Translation Fund was established in the summer of 2003 by a gift of $730,000 from an anonymous donor in response to the dismayingly low number of literary translations currently appearing in English. Its purpose is to promote the publication and reception of translated world literature in English.

Bernard Adams, A hóhér háza (The Hangman’s House), a novel by Hungarian writer Andrea Tompa (from Hungarian)

Alexander Booth, im felderlatein (in field latin), a collection of poems by German poet Lutz Seiler (from German)

Brent Edwards, L’Afrique fantôme (Phantom Africa), an ethnographic study with autobiographic elements by the French writer Michel Leiris (from French)

Joshua Daniel Edwin, kummerang (gloomerang), the first book by young German poet Dagmara Kraus (from German)

Musharraf Ali Farooqi, Hoshruba: The Prisoner of Batin, an epic fantasy based on oral tradition by Indian writers Muhammad Husain Jah and Ahmed Husain Qamar (from Urdu)

Deborah GarfinkleWorm-Eaten Time: Poems from a Life Under Normalization, a collection of banned poems originally circulated in samizdat copies by Czech poet Pavel Šrut (from Czech)

Hillary Gulley, El fin de lo mismo (The End of the Same), a novel by Argentine writer Marcelo Cohen (from Spanish)

Bonnie Huie, Notes of a Crocodile, the groundbreaking queer novel by Taiwanese writer Qiu Miaojin (from Chinese)

Jacquelyn Pope, Hungerpots, a collection of poems by Dutch poet Hester Knibbe (from Dutch)

Matt Reeck and Aftab Ahmad, Mirages of the Mind, a novel by Pakistani writer Mushtaq Ahmad Yousufi (from Urdu)

Carrie Reed, Youyang zazu (Miscellaneous Morsels from Youyang), a compendium from the Tang Dynasty by Duan Chengshi (from Chinese)

Nathanaël, The Mausoleum of Lovers, French novelist and AIDS activists Hervé Guibert’s posthumously published collection of private journals (from French)

The Advisory Council is also pleased to announce that its nominee for a 2012 New York State Council on the Arts translation grant, Ana Božičević, was awarded a grant in January for her translation of It Was Easy to Set the Snow on Fire by Serbian poet Zvonko Karanović.

Translation Fund History

Over the seven years of its existence, the Fund has given grants of $2,000–$10,000 to a total of 72 translations from 30 languages, including Armenian, Basque, Estonian, Farsi, Finland-Swedish, Lithuanian and Mongolian, as well as French, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic.

Among the 50 projects awarded grants in the Fund’s first five years of operation (2004–2008), 38 of those (76 percent) have thus far been published or are forthcoming from a publisher. Many of those books found their publishers as a result of being awarded a grant by the Fund. 

In addition to being excerpted and favorably reviewed in a host of magazines including The New YorkerThe New York Review of Books,GrantaThe Paris ReviewWords Without BordersThe Literary ReviewMandorla, and many others, about 20 percent of the published PEN Translation Fund projects have won or been shortlisted for major literary awards, including:

  • Winner of the 2009 Northern California Book Award for Translation: Katherine Silver forSenselessness by Horacio Castellanos Moya (New Directions, 2008) 
  • Winner of the R. R. Hawkins Award from the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers, as the Outstanding Professional, Reference or Scholarly Book of 2007: Peter Cole for The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950–1492(Princeton University Press, 2007)
  • Winner of the 2007 National Jewish Book Award for Poetry: Peter Cole for The Dream of the Poem: Hebrew Poetry from Muslim and Christian Spain, 950–1492 (Princeton University Press, 2007)
  • Finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry: Karen Emmerich for her translation of Miltos Sachtouris’ Poems (1945–1971) from the Greek (Archipelago Books, 2007)
  • Winner of the 2006 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize from the Goethe-Institut Chicago: Susan Bernofsky for her translation of Jenny Erpenbeck’s The Old Child and Other Stories from the German (New Directions, 2005)
  • Support from the Lannan Foundation’s Translation Selections Series: Idra Novey’s translation of Brazilian poet Pablo Henriques Britto’s The Clean Shirt of It: Selected Poems(BOA Editions, 2007)
  • Short-listed for Canada’s highly prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize in 2006: Liz Winslow’s translation of Iraqi poet Dunya Mikhail’s The War Works Hard (New Directions, 2005)
  • Named one of the 25 Books to Remember of 2005 by the New York Public Library: Liz Winslow’s translation of Dunya Mikhail’s The War Works Hard (New Directions, 2005)

2012 Judges

Susan Bernofsky, Barbara Epler, Edwin Frank, Michael F. Moore, Michael Reynolds, Richard Sieburth, Eliot Weinberger, and Natasha Wimmer