Translation Committee


The PEN America Translation Committee advocates on behalf of literary translators, working to foster a wider understanding of their art and offering professional resources for translators, publishers, critics, bloggers, and others with an interest in international literature. The committee is currently co-chaired by Larissa Kyzer and Amanda Sarasien. Allison Markin Powell is the Translation Committee Board Representative. Contact us at [email protected].

“Translators are faced with a choice. Either they can continue to do nothing to improve their lot or they can join together to ensure that at long last they will receive their due. The choice between apathy and active engagement in a struggle for recognition between silence and the living voice. The world of translation is still largely undiscovered and unexplored.” – from the Manifesto of the 1970 World in Translation conference

Today the PEN America Translation Committee brings together translators throughout the country via virtual platforms to share resources and organize events, including the groundbreaking “Translating the Future” conference that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the first translation conference held in the United States, sponsored by PEN in 1970. We meet every two months and invite participants to take part in our many initiatives as well as to promote and receive support for their own work.

News and Updates

Several translation prizes and grants were announced live at the 2020 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony on March 2, 2020, at The Town Hall in New York City, which was hosted by Seth Meyers:

Please keep an eye on the Literary Awards page for updates about submissions for the 2021 Literary Awards Cycle.

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we invite you to read the collections from the 2020 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation Longlist. Selected by judges Michael Eskin, Forrest Gander, and Pierre Joris, these collections remind us that in times of crisis, poetry has the power to cross borders to unite and uplift us.

Amid the pandemic and worldwide protests against police brutality and systemic racism, members of the PEN Translation Committee recommends books in translation that speak to this moment. Translations for Our Moment: A Reading List from the PEN Translation Committee.

The 2020 Translating the Future conference will take place on the virtual HowlRound platform weekly from May 12, 2020, through the end of September, with marquee events the weekend of September 24-26, 2020. Each panel and conversation will be archived on the platform. The updating of the 1970 Manifesto and Call to Action is an ongoing project taking place nationwide, and all are invited to participate. See the full schedule of “Translating the Future” conference (including a panel on the redrafting of the Translators’ Manifesto), find videos of previous events, and dip into the archive of the 1970 conference, including audio recordings of participants such as Gregory Rabassa, articles, and the original conference program here.

Translation Resources

The Authors Guild Literary Translation Model Contract and Commentary
The Authors Guild Literary Translation Model Contract and Commentary (or “Translation Model Contract”) is intended specifically as an aid to translators in negotiating changes to publishers’ standard contracts. If your negotiations commence before the publisher offers you a contract, this document will also guide you in identifying the key points (scope of rights, payment terms, etc.) that you need to negotiate up front. (Published April 2021)

Translation FAQs
Answers to common questions regarding literary translation and publishing.

Negotiating Contracts: A Translator’s Checklist
You want to translate a book.  A press is ready to publish it. They send you a contract. What should you be looking for? Fee, copyright, name on the cover, royalties, final say on the text? Due date? Publication date? With so many details to keep track of, it’s easy to overlook something. Translators from the PEN America Translation Committee, the Translators Association (UK), and the Literary Translators’ Association of Canada present a checklist to help you use their model contracts to get the best terms you can get.

PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants and the PEN Grant for the English Translation of Italian Literature support the translation of book-length works of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, or drama. 

PEN Translation Prize
Awarded each year to honor a book-length translation from any language into English.

PEN Award for Poetry in Translation
Presented each year to recognize a book-length translation of poetry from any language into English.

PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation
Awarded every third year to a translator whose career has demonstrated a commitment to excellence through the body of his or her work.

A selection of literary journals seeking works in translation.

A list of presses, large and small, that publish works in translation.

How to Review Translations
A series of posts by critics and translators at Words Without Borders.

Recommended Readings on Translation
An annotated list by PEN member Sandra Smith, translator of Irène Némirovsky and Albert Camus.

Translation Programs
A list of undergraduate and graduate translation courses, workshops, and programs.

The best source for literary translation events in the NYC area is the “Upcoming Translation Events” page, maintained by Susan Bernofsky on the Columbia University website.

The American Literary Translators Association
“The mission of the American Literary Translators Association is to support the work of literary translators, advance the art of literary translation, and serve translators, and the students, teachers, publishers, and readers of literature in translation.” See website for information about awards, mentorships, and the annual conference.

The Authors Guild
2017 Authors Guild Survey of Literary Translators’ Working Conditions

Women in Translation: a Tumblr by Translation Committee members Margaret Carson and Alta L. Price

The Business of Literary Translation: video of a four-part series co-presented by the PEN America Translation Committee and the Bridge Series, hosted by the Center for Fiction. Part 1: Breaking In | Part 2: Editing | Part 3: Contracts | Part 4: Bookselling

Translators, Rates, Money, and Unions”: Translation Committee co-chair Alex Zucker, on the Three Percent podcast, talks about the business of literary translation.

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