The PEN/Heim Translation Fund was established in the summer of 2003 by an endowed gift of $730,000 from Priscilla and Michael Henry Heim, 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 international literature in English.

Since 2009, the Fund’s annual contribution for grant awards has been augmented by support from Amazon. Thanks to the generosity of Michael Heim’s endowment and Amazon, PEN has awarded grants to 89 winning projects from 2009 through 2015. The Fund has been uniquely successful in finding publishers for major international works, encouraging younger translators to enter the field, and introducing English-speaking readers to new and exciting voices. All other criteria being equal, preference is given to translators at the beginning of their career, and to works by underrepresented writers working in underrepresented languages.

Over the twelve years of its existence, the Fund has given grants of $2,000–$4,000 to a total of 139 translations from over 35 languages, including Armenian, Basque, Estonian, Farsi, Finland-Swedish, Lithuanian and Mongolian, as well as French, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic. Among the 108 projects awarded grants in the Fund’s first 10 years of operation (2004–2013), 75 (nearly 70%) have thus far been published or are forthcoming from a publisher. Learn more about the published or forthcoming publications here. 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 Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Granta, The Paris Review, Words Without Borders, The Literary Review, Mandorla, and many others, about 20 percent of the published PEN/Heim 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 for Senselessness 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)

As of 2015, each grant recipient receives a copy of The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation, generously provided by Open Letter Books

Beginning in 2017, under the administering of the PEN/Heim Translation Fund, PEN will also offer the PEN Grant for the English Translation of Italian Literature. From the pool of annual submissions, judges for the PEN/Heim Translation Fund will select one project of narrative prose that has been translated into English from the Italian to receive this award, which will come with a $5,000 prize. Any applicant who submits to the PEN/Heim Translation Fund with a project that is a translation of narrative prose from the Italian into English will be automatically considered for the PEN Grant for the Translation of Italian Literature. 

Read excerpts and essays from the 2014 recipients here.

Read excerpts and essays from the 2015 recipients here.

Click to view past recipients of the PEN/Heim Translation Fund grants »

Eligibility and Submissions for the 2019 Grants

Submissions for the 2019 awards cycle will be accepted from June 1, 2018 through July 20, 2018. 

Who is eligible

  • The PEN/Heim Translation Fund provides grants to support the translation of book-length works of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, or drama that have not previously appeared in English in print or have appeared only in an outdated or otherwise flawed translation.
  • Works should be translations-in-progress, as the grant aims to provide support for completion.
  • There are no restrictions on the nationality or citizenship of the translator, but the works must be translated into English.
  • The Fund seeks to encourage translators to undertake projects they might not otherwise have had the means to attempt.
  • Anthologies with multiple translators, works of literary criticism, and scholarly or technical texts do not qualify.
  • Translators who have previously been awarded grants by the Fund are ineligible to reapply for three years after the year in which they receive a grant.
  • Please note that projects that have been previously submitted and have not received a grant are unlikely to be reconsidered in a subsequent year. 
  • Projects may have up to two translators. 
  • Translators may only submit one project per year. 

All 2019 applicants will receive notification regarding the status of their application before February 2019.

How to submit:
Click here to apply for the 2019 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant.

1. The application, with all items completed:

  • A one- to two-page, single-spaced statement outlining the work and describing its importance.
  • A biography and bibliography of the author, including information on translations of his or her work into other languages.
  • A CV of the translator, no longer than three pages.
  • If the book is not in the public domain and the project is not yet under contract, please include a photocopy of the copyright notice from the book published in its original language (the copyright notice is a line including the character ©, a date, and the name of the copyright holder, which appears as part of the front matter in every book), and a letter from the copyright holder stating that English-language rights to the book are available. A letter or copy of an email from the copyright holder is sufficient. 
  • If the translation is currently under contract with a publisher, please submit a copy of the contract.

2. A 10–12-page, single-spaced sample of the translation

3. The same passage in the original language (and, if the work has been previously translated, the same passage in the earlier version).

4. Please note that this year, applicants will NOT be asked to submit a hard copy form of their application. The application process is entirely electronic. 

Please direct any questions to [email protected].