Announcing the 2016 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Winners
PEN America is delighted to announce the recipients of the 2016 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants. The Translation Fund, now celebrating its thirteenth year, received a large number of applications this year—171 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, Peter Blackstock, Sara Khalili, Tynan Kogane, Allison Markin Powell, Antonio Romani, Chip Rossetti, and Alex Zucker—has selected fourteen projects, spanning 9 different languages, including Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, Chinese, Czech, Hindi, Yiddish, and more.
Each project will receive a grant of $3,670 to assist in their completion. More information on each of the fourteen grantees and brief excerpts of their translations can be found below. Longer excerpts of their grant-winning projects can be found in our 2016 PEN/Heim Translation Series.
2016 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant Recipients
Gabriel Amor for his translation of Juana I by Ana Azourmanian. “What I need is a mouth,” begins this poem cycle, voiced by the woman who held the title of Queen of Castile from 1504 to 1555. This work, by an Argentine poet, attorney, and legal scholar, seeks justice, not only for its imprisoned narrator, known as “La Loca” and ruled insane as a matter of political expedience, but for the millions of victims of the genocidal empire she putatively reigned over. (Available for publication)
What I need is a mouth.
I need a mouth the enamel of teeth your saliva. Blood stops flowing to your lips.
I kiss the air, the locks of hair, the Virgin Mary.
I run ropes through the gates of your body. I pull on a
rope to open your pupils and let in the light.
She is mad.
They murmur among themselves.
I clean you. Licking muscle joined to bone joined to skin.
I want what I want what everyone calls god for me
Ellen Cassedy for her strong translation of On the Landing: Selected Stories by Yenta Mash, a vivid and often humorous portrayal of Jewish and non-Jewish life in three very different 20th-century societies: Bessarabia (Moldova), the Soviet Union, and Israel. Cassedy’s is the first Yiddish project to receive support from the PEN/Heim Translation Fund. (Available for publication)
Outside it was pitch black. The streetlights had been turned off in advance. All was still as a grave. Not a creature was about. Only the wagon, waiting in front of the house. The chief secured their door with a padlock, put the key in his pocket, and signaled to the peasant driver to get moving. When they reached the bridge, silhouettes of other wagons began to emerge from the darkness, all moving in the same direction. Apparently they were not the only ones.
Chris Clarke for his translation of Imaginary Lives by Marcel Schwob, a collection of vastly entertaining biographical tales first published in 1895. Featuring the famous, the infamous, the unknown and even the fictional, from the pre-Socratic philosopher Empedocles to the notorious 19th-century Irish murderers William Burke and William Hare, these 23 tales, by a writer associated with the French Symbolist movement, evince a decided penchant for the dark and the decadent. (Forthcoming from Wakefield Press)
The art of the biographer consists specifically in choice. He is not meant to worry about speaking truth; he must create human characteristics amidst the chaos. Leibniz said that in making the world, God chose the best of all possibilities. The biographer, like some lesser deity, understands how to choose among possible humans the man who is unique. Their tales are to be found in the chronicles, in memoirs, in correspondence and annotations. In the middle of this crude assemblage, the biographer culls enough material to be able to compose a form that resembles no other. It isn’t necessary that it be the same as that which was already created before, by a greater god, only that it is unique, like all other creations.
Sharon Dolin for her translation of the award-winning Book of Minutes by Gemma Gorga, one of the most celebrated contemporary poets writing in Catalan. Dolin, with her exquisite and elegant translation, introduces to us this captivating collection of sixty prose poems that, in her words, enthrall with the enigmatic, oneiric beauty of the miniature. (Available for publication)
[Small, hollow, metal sphere]
“Small, hollow, metal sphere with a little ball inside that causes it to resonate at the slightest movement.” Like any other book, the dictionary is also written in the first person singular. Each page about me, every word written, thinking of me—a definition for the indefinite, order for the disorder. I understood it while reading the entry for jingle-bell, and the entire universe was resonating inside me like a little ball, as if I, too, were a metal sphere. Bright and hollow.
Kaiama L. Glover for her translation of Hadriana in All My Dreams by René Depestre, a prizewinning work of social satire. Written while the author was in exile and inspired by childhood memories of the village where he grew up, this classic of the Haitian literary tradition enchants the reader with the marvelous reality of Vodou culture, retelling the story of a beautiful young French girl who is transformed into a zombie on her wedding day. (Forthcoming from Akashic Books)
I died on the night of the most beautiful day of my life: I died on the night of my marriage in the church of Saint Philippe and Saint Jacques. Everyone thought I had been struck down by the sacramental Yes that burst out of me. They claimed I was swept away by the fire of my consent, overcome by the depth of its power and truth – that I was done in by my own bridal passion. Truth be told, my false death had begun half an hour before I cried out in the church.
Anita Gopalan for her translation of Simsim by Geet Chaturvedi. First published in 2008, this lyrical, award-winning novella was recognized for its groundbreaking contribution to contemporary Hindi fiction. Focused on four central characters and a decaying library sitting on prime Mumbai real estate, Simsim narrates the clash between two Indias—one old and traditional, and the other driven by consumerism and corporate greed. (Available for publication)
When softcopies could be created and kept in just a few DVDs, why let books occupy so much space? I wondered. During the old man’s absence, did these books move out of their places? Did they still wear their bindings and book covers, or wriggle out of them and like house sparrows flap and shake dust and termites off their bodies? Did they also dance to the tune of mourning? To the beats of despair? To the combined rhythm of insult and neglect?
Amanda Lee Koe for her translation of Ten Years of Marriage by Su Qing, seen as the ‘sovereign’ of the sorely overlooked movement of “Missy Writers” in mid-century Chinese literary modernism. The novel mixes autobiography and fiction, tracing the rites of passage of a young woman from marriage to motherhood to unhappy domestic life; its portrayal of female sexuality and commentary on the restrictive social conventions of the era made it a runaway bestseller when it was published in the 1940s. (Available for publication)
Of course Mother assumed I was a virgin. She insisted I ride the flower sedan, that I was not to miss out on a prerogative so cherished. I thought that riding a flower sedan to the YMCA, where we were to be wed, was outlandish. But it was an awkward subject to bring up, for Mother would then be sure to jump to the conclusion that I had a stain upon my conscience and feared repercussions from the sedan deity. So it was that all went as per their wishes.
Karen Leeder for her translation of Thick of It by Ulrika Almut Sandig. Sandig’s work suffuses contemporary settings with classicism, drawing inspiration in part from Goethe and Annette von Droste Hülshoff, as well as Paul Celan. Thick of It explores German history and landscape, the broader world, natural and human, and language itself, and is stunningly rendered in Leeder’s translation, which pays close attention to meter, register, and recreates the magic of the original. (Available for publication)
when the last song is done
the sine wave of the last chord
is moving off towards the horizon ∞
in small and smaller and almost
imperceptible waves, when the vinyl disc
has stopped turning, the diamond stylus
circles, when from the two blue speakers
an ocean almost vanished softly roars
when the heart chambers flicker and when
you are with me and hear all of this
then go on and tell the others too: we
have taken leave of our senses
but can still, still, just be heard.
Rachel McNicholl for her translation of Operation Hinterland: Tales from the Silver Scrapheap, the debut novel of Austrian writer Anita Augustin. Satirical and surreal, this novel set in the near future tells the story of four recently retired women and their misadventures in an old folks’ home. (Available for publication)
They’re all in the twenty to forty sort of age bracket, the journalists, so it’s obvious why no one was asking awkward questions. Especially considering the press pack. They were all flicking through it, and I can just imagine the contents. Statistics, figures, tables. Demographic trends, hard facts. Who will be dying of what in forty or fifty years’ time because the drug to cure it or prevent it still won’t exist. Worse again: who will not be dying of what.
Alicia Maria Meier for her translation of The Sky According to Google by Marta Carnicero Hernanz, a contemporary Catalan author. In two interwoven narratives set forty years apart, this novel chronicles a family’s ruptures and reconciliations, which parallels the struggle for self-identity in modern-day Catalonia. (Available for publication)
Not a trace, then, of the sky of lost civilization, like a fire or volcano, that I remember. Not a trace of the magical-realist sky, nor of the farmers pointing at the cloud of ash, reacting as by habit. Not a trace of the feathers, as if the nonnas of the village have swept them up in anticipation of the street-view team and their futuristic vehicle, and now remain, trapped in a fold of time, waiting for nightfall so they can raise the blinds again.
Emma Ramadan for her translation of Les Persiennes by Ahmed Bouanani. This volume of prose poems—by turns haunting, elegant, and surreal—is a key text by a major Francophone Moroccan poet and filmmaker, deftly translated by Emma Ramadan. These poems arc across geography, history, and folklore to rescue Moroccan cultural memory, an act of remembering in the face of colonial and state projects of forgetting. (Available for publication)
My first years were spent behind the shutters, in a room without engravings, in an archaeological silence a thousand years in the making, invariably disturbed every morning at the hour of the swallows and the distant bugles of the barracks at the edge of the forest, by the heavy and terrifying squeaking of the funeral wagons…
Corine Tachtiris for her translation of Dark Love, a powerful depiction of the psychology of sexual abuse, written in a grotesque allegorical style by the Czech feminist author Alexandra Berková (1949–2008). Berková’s work has been featured in every English-language anthology of Czech literature since 1989, but none of her books has been translated into English in full. (Available for publication)
The car is heated by the afternoon sun, and I, pervaded through and through by a pain known as love, I don’t know it because I’m twelve, and so I just try to bear it somehow and not die, like when I’m sitting at the dentist’s with my mouth wide open and outside the window of milky glass people are walking by as if nothing were the matter and there’s not a thing you can do about it…
Russell Scott Valentino for his translation of Kin by Miljenko Jergović, a sprawling family saga from one of the central figures in post-Yugoslav literature, translated from the Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian. Comprised of novellas, documents, narrative sketches and fragments, Kin merges fiction and nonfiction to explore the fate of Jergović’s own family, beginning with his great-grandfather, Karlo Stubler, a Swabian from the Romanian Banat town of Bosowicz, who insisted that German and only German be spoken at his dinner table. (Forthcoming from Archipelago)
In cars for people and for livestock, in first, second, and third class, on racks for coal, in open wagons, before the loaded rifles and pistols of young Red Army soldiers, policemen, and civilians, and then on foot, when the tracks came to an end at demolished bridges, they made their way, with other families until they disappeared, with German POWs, disarmed deserters, and émigré families like theirs, gathered up like them in their sleep and now being taken who knew where, to Russia or the end of the earth, it was all the same.
Jeffrey Zuckerman for his translation of The Complete Stories of Hervé Guibert. Zuckerman’s translation brings together stories that span fourteen years of writing by one of France’s most iconic gay writers and photographers, an enfant terrible, from a visceral self-portrait at twenty-one to posthumously published stories reflecting on art, lust, and life. (Available for publication)
…Imagine me, for a few seconds, during my various wanderings, like a visionary, or like a preposterous butterfly hunter, busy following these grim railroad tracks, and, every few meters, setting off these sodic explosions so as to detect, in the nighttime landscape in fusion, the strongest concentrations of thoughts, disentangling them, photographing them, then magnifying them, and recognizing his turns of phrase (the thoughts preceding his death already had a literary shape, they were all oriented toward this dream of a novel) and then setting them in the silence of the library where I worked and where I returned every night, because it was the only place large enough to be able to welcome all the loot I poured out, and which came back together into long strips of sentences repeatedly interrupted, stuck together, and then undone.
Publishers and editors who wish to express an interest in any of these projects are invited to contact PEN Literary Awards Coordinator Arielle Anema (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the translators’ contact information.
PEN America gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of the Amazon Literary Partnership, which has assisted the Fund’s work this year with a gift of $25,000.