2015 PEN Translation Prize

Winner

Denise Newman for her translation from the Danish of Naja Marie Aidt's Baboon (Two Lines Press)

The $3,000 PEN Translation Prize honors a book-length translation from any language into English.

Click here to read an interview with Denise Newman about her work on translating Naja Marie Aidt's Baboon.

From the Judges' Citation

Suddenly we found ourselves in the middle of an astonishing landscape…

From its first line, Denise Newman’s translation of Baboon announces that its readers will be transported to unexpected, bewildering places, and that the journey will at times be abrupt, even disconcerting. The stories by Danish author Naja Marie Aidt begin in familiar enough territory—a European city, a family vacation, a business conference—but it becomes clear very quickly that her characters’ inner worlds are harsh terrains over which they have little control. From a honeymoon gone awry, to a series of chance encounters in a public park, to a mosquito bite that ruins a man’s life, Baboon delivers impact after impact in casual yet brutally precise language.

If the reader’s transit into Aidt’s narrative world is often jarring, Newman’s agile and compelling translation of her prose into English provides steadfast footing. One can imagine the challenge of conveying the psychological depths just barely concealed beneath Aidt’s measured words, and Newman accomplishes this feat with remarkable skill. It is impossible to miss the urgency and deep humanity of each of these stories, even as the spare descriptions of extreme scenarios push the reader far into unfamiliar territory.

This narrative tension, which Aidt and Newman sustain so admirably throughout, sets Baboon apart from the other remarkable books of the shortlist. It is a tension that, appropriately enough for a translation prize, insists on the immediacy and personal relevance of even those manifestations of fear, desire, and betrayal that might at first seem remote. The first translation from Danish to win the PEN prize, and the first Nordic work since 2001, Baboon is an exceptional contribution to world literature in English."

Shortlist

The Gray Notebook by Josep Pla (New York Review Books), translated from the Catalan by Peter Bush
The Symmetry Teacher by Andrei Bitov (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), translated from the Russian by Polly Gannon
Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt (Two Lines Press), translated from the Danish by Denise Newman
Texas: The Great Theft by Carmen Boullosa (Deep Vellum Publishing), translated from the Spanish by Samantha Schnee
Self-Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye (Two Lines Press), translated from the French by Jordan Stump

Longlist

Trans-Atlantyk by Witold Gombrowicz (Yale/Margellos), translated from the Polish by Danuta Borchardt
The Gray Notebook by Josep Pla (New York Review Books), translated from the Catalan by Peter Bush
The Symmetry Teacher by Andrei Bitov (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), translated from the Russian by Polly Gannon
The Master of Confessions by Thierry Cruvellier (Ecco), translated from the French by Alex Gilly
The Man Who Loved Dogs by Leonardo Padura (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), translated from the Spanish by Anna Kushner
I Ching (Viking Books), translated from the Chinese by John Minford
Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt (Two Lines Press), translated from the Danish by Denise Newman
Texas: The Great Theft by Carmen Boullosa (Deep Vellum Publishing), translated from the Spanish by Samantha Schnee
Self-Portrait in Green by Marie NDiaye (Two Lines Press), translated from the French by Jordan Stump
The Woman Who Borrowed Memories by Tove Jansson (New York Review Books), translated from the Swedish by Thomas Teal & Silvester Mazzarella

2015 Judges

Heather Cleary’s translations include Sergio Chejfec’s The Planets (finalist, Best Translated Book Award 2012) and The Dark (nominee, National Translation Award 2013), and Poems to Read on a Streetcar, a selection of Oliverio Girondo’s poetry (New Directions 2014). The recipient of a PEN Translation Fund Grant for her work with Girondo, she is a founding editor of the digital, bilingual Buenos Aires Review and has written on literature in translation for The Quarterly Conversation and Words Without Borders, among other publications. She holds a Ph.D. in Latin American and Iberian Cultures from Columbia University.

Lucas Klein is a writer, translator, and editor whose work has appeared in Jacket, Rain Taxi, CLEAR, and PMLA, and from Fordham, Black Widow, and New Directions. Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong, his translation of poetry by Xi Chuan 西川 won the 2013 Lucien Stryk Prize and was shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award in poetry. His translations of seminal contemporary poet Mang Ke 芒克 are forthcoming from Zephyr and Chinese University Press, and he is at work translating Tang dynasty poet Li Shangyin 李商隱 (for more, see xichuanpoetry.com).

Tess Lewis’s translations from French and German include works by Peter Handke, Alois Hotschnig, Doron Rabinovici, Melinda Nadj Abonji, Pascal Bruckner, and Jean-Luc Benoziglio. She has been awarded translation grants from PEN USA and PEN UK, an NEA Translation Fellowship, a Max Geilinger Translation Award and the Austrian Cultural Forum’s 2015 Translation Prize. She also serves as an Advisory Editor for The Hudson Review and writes essays on European Literature for numerous journals and newspapers. Since 2014, Ms. Lewis has curated Festival Neue Literature, New York City’s premiere annual festival of German language literature in English.

Allison Markin Powell is a literary translator and editor in New York City. Her translation of The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami was nominated for the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize, and the UK edition (Strange Weather in Tokyo) was nominated for the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. She has also translated works by Osamu Dazai and Fuminori Nakamura, among others. Photo Credit: Jonathan Armstrong for The Documentist

Past winners

Archibald Colquhoun, Ralph Manheim, Joseph Barnes, Geoffrey Skelton and Adrian Mitchell, Harriet de Onis, Vladimir Markov and MerrillSparks, W.S. Merwin, Sidney Alexander, Max Hayward, Clara and Richard Winston, J.P. McCullough, Hardie St. Martin and Leonard Mades, Helen R. Lane, Richard Howard, Gregory Rabassa, Adrienne Foulke, Charles Wright, Charles Simic, John E. Woods, Hiroaki sato and Burton Watson, Richard Wilbur, William Weaver, Helen R. Lane, Seamus Heaney, Barbara Bray, Dennis Tedlock, John E. Woods, Madeline Levine and Francine Prose, Matthew Ward, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, David Rosenberg, Thomas Hoisington, Bill Zavatsky and Zack Rogow, Burton Watson, Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh, Arnold Pomerans, Peter Constantine, Michael Hofmann, Richard Sieberth, Tiina Nunnally, R.W. Flint, Margaret Sayers Peden, Tim Wilkinson, Philip Gabriel, Sandra Smith, Margaret Jull Costa, Natasha Wimmer, Michael Henry Heim, Ibrahim Muhawi, Bill Johnston, Donald O. White, Joanne Turnbull and Nikolai Formozov.

Click here for additional information, including submission guidelines, for the award.

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