Bill Johnston, Stone Upon Stone by Wiesław Myśliwski

The PEN Translation Prize is awarded to book-length translations from any language into English. The prize has been supported since 1963 in recognition of the art of the literary translator—the first American award to do so. The most recent recipients are: Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky for their translation of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, R. W. Flint’s translation of The Moon and the Bonfiresby Cesare Pavese, Margaret Sayers Peden’s translation of Sepharad by Antonio Muñoz Molina, Philip Gabriel for his translation of Haruki Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore, and Sandra Smith for her translation of Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky.

2012 Judges

Aron Aji, Donald Breckenridge, and Minna Proctor

From the Judges’ Citation

“Wieslaw Mysliwski’s Stone Upon Stone presents a passionately colloquial and abundantly rich account of life in a small Polish village during the darkest decades of 20th century Eastern Europe with clarity, humor, and emotional candor. Bill Johnston has done a truly remarkable job rendering this beautiful novel into English. His translation is pitch-perfect, seamless and extraordinarily precise. Johnston shows breathtaking versatility and enables us to hear, sense, and feel the narrator’s whirlwind monologue across diverse characterizations, story-lines, tones, and dramatic modalities. The transposition from midcentury Polish to English is—in the best sense of the word—invisible. Stone Upon Stone is a (singular) revelation and an absolute pleasure to read.”


Sinan Antoon, In the Presence of Absence by Mahmoud Darwish

The judges wrote in their citation:

In the Presence of Absence, by the late Mahmoud Darwish, is an arrestingly lyrical work in which his enduring themes―exile, homeland, love, loss―are interlaced through the weft and warp of death and writing, the severe finality of one, the redemptive possibility of the other. Sinan Antoon’s translation is exquisite. A poet in his own right and keen reader of Darwish’s oeuvre as much as the historical reality that has shaped both of their creative sensibilities, Antoon translates with wisdom, empathy, and grace.”

Margaret Jull CostaThe Land at the End of the World by Antonio Lobo Antunes

The judges wrote in their citation: 

“Margaret Jull Costa’s remarkable translation from Portuguese of Antonio Lobo Antunes’ The Land at the End of the World reminds us that a translator’s greatest resource is language. In Costa’s hands this elegantly dynamic and complex novel, language is not merely a resource; it is a massive and all encompassing elastic power. Costa pushes the English language, the way Antunes courageously drives his syntax, well beyond conventional boundaries. In Costa’s hands, Antunes’ prose breathes, then rises from the page like a great cat, and tears mightily through the night.”

Past Winners

Ralph Manheim, W. S. Merwin, Max Hayward, Adrienne Foulke, Charles Wright, Charles Simic, Hiroaki Sato, Burton Watson, Richard Wilbur, Seamus Heaney, Madeline Levine, Francine Prose, Matthew Ward, John E. Woods, Michael Hofmann, Natasha Wimmer, Michael Henry Heim, and Ibrahim Muhawi