Margaret Sayers Peden

The PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation is given every three years to a translator whose career has demonstrated a commitment to excellence through the body of his or her work. The award was initiated by funds donated by the late Bernard Malamud and by Gay Talese, and has received additional support from the family and friends of Ralph Manheim. Selected by the PEN Translation Committee.

Read an excerpt from Island Beneath the Sea

The next medal will be awarded in 2015.

From the Judges’ Citation

“When just we come upon that lofty cognomen of Margaret Sayers Peden, we expect to find behind it one of those “literary ladies with three names” of whom Dylan Thomas speaks. Then we meet Petch and are immediately disabused of any wonderment at how that first imagined creature could have possessed the pliant prose that Peden brings forth to match the varied words and styles of the writers she has carried over into English from their different forms of Spanish, Mexican, and otherwise. Her characters speak as they would have had they been born to English and their authors likewise acquire a style in their transformed tongue that is true to what they say or are trying to say, to follow Borges’s admonition to his translator. Peden’s gamut is extensive. Her deft revision of Sor Juana preserves the nun’s depth of understanding along with that twinkle in her eye as she untangled dour theology. Peden’s transference of Pedro Páramo preserves the Mexican rural spirit, while the sly and often raffish outlook of Carlos Fuentes is perfectly preserved and shows once more that a good translation is simply a matter of good writing. And now, as a fitting coda to a long and valuable career, Margaret Sayers Peden has seen fit to take on that classic of the Spanish Golden Age, La Celestina. Here she has put to use the kind of insight and instinct that such a devious great work demands, and which she has displayed so well and for so long.”

Past Honorees

Michael Henry Heim, Gregory Rabassa, Richard Howard, Ralph Manheim, William Weaver, Richard Wilbur, Robert Fagles, Edmund Keeley, Donald Keene, and Edith Grossman