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Translation

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 cochaired by Allison Markin Powell and Mary Ann Newman. Contact us at pen.translation at gmail.com.

“If I were asked to sum up in one word my reason for feeling that a Translation Committee was essential to the American Center of P.E.N.—quite apart from the obvious fact that P.E.N. is an international organization and therefore exists through translated relationships—I think that the word I would use is ‘climate.’ For translation to flourish in this or any other country as it should (as it must), an ideal climate would supply certain basic necessities: recognition of the fact that the translator is indispensable; appreciation of the difficulty of his role (that it is an art as well as a craft); proper financial return for his labors, and credit given where credit is due.” — B. J. Chute, former PEN American Center president, “The Necessity of Translation,” May 1970

“Language is a porous border, but a border nonetheless, and one that must be crossed and re-crossed continuously. As Peter Handke wrote in his play, Storm Still, set in the same troubled corner of Austria as this novel, ‘Beyond language, violence breaks out.’  Even at its best, translation is an impossible art. Yet imperfect as it is, it’s one of the most effective ways we have of defusing the violence Handke mentions.” — Tess Lewis, on accepting the 2017 PEN Translation Prize for her translation from German of Angel of Oblivion by Maja Haderlap (Archipelago Books)

News and Updates

August is Women in Translation Month, and, the PEN America Translation Committee is holding a reading and discussion on Thursday, August 17th, co-presented with WORD Bookstore in Brooklyn. The evening will showcase the work of authors and translators alike, while also shining a spotlight on gender disparity as a constraint on free expression.

The call for nominations is still open for the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation. Nominations may be made by PEN members and close August 15th.

PEN America is currently accepting submissions for the PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants. Submissions close September 15th.

2013 PEN/Heim Translation Grant winner Isabel Fargo Cole’s translation of the German writer Franz Fühmann’s pertinent novel At the Burning Abyss: Experiencing the Georg Trakl Poem is forthcoming this June from Seagull Books. The book explores the human susceptibility to extreme political ideologies, and the literary power of Georg Trakl’s poetry to transcend the absolute limits of such doctrines.  

 

Translation Resources

Directory of Working Translators
A listing of PEN members working as translators in more than 25 different languages.

Model Contract for Literary Translations
A template of a standard publishing contract for a literary work in translation, covering copyright and reversion of rights, royalties, publicity, and other basics.

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 to support the translation of book-length works of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, or drama. Read translator essays and excerpts from the 2016 PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant winners.

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.

 

Journals
A selection of literary journals seeking works in translation.

Publishers
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.

Events
The best source for literary translation events in the NYC area is Susan Bernofsky’s blog, Translationista.

Topics
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 copresented 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 cochair Alex Zucker, on the Three Percent podcast, talks about the business of literary translation.