from Chaim GravitzerAt the head of the table sat a wide-shouldered young man with laughing black…
from Don't WorryLike always, she’s sitting at the out-of-tune grand piano, mashing down the pedal and…
from Neverending Quest for the Other ShoreTo all people of good faith embarked / on the obscure waters of immemorial…
from Revolt Against the SunShe died, but no lips shook, no cheeks turned white / no doors heard…
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 grateful to outgoing co-chair Amanda Sarasien for her two years of leadership. The committee is currently co-chaired by Annelise Finegan and incoming co-chair Frieda Afary, who recently gave a keynote speech on confronting disinformation and book bans at the San Francisco Public Library Conference. 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.
The committee convenes every two months and invite participants to take part in their many initiatives as well as to promote and receive support for their own work. If you are a PEN America Member who is interested in attending a meeting, please email the committee chairs at [email protected].
In order to promote an appreciation of world literature and cultivate global solidarity within the general public in the U.S., members of PEN America’s Translation Committee are offering to speak at public libraries. Our members offer presentations on various topics related to the books which they have translated or the cultures/nations in which they specialize. These presentations can be made via Zoom or in person. While donations/honoraria for speakers will be appreciated, they are not mandatory. Learn more here.
News and Updates
In honor of Women in Translation (WiT) month, the 2022 Women in Translation reading series took place from August 16-30th. The series brought together three panels of translators, joined by their authors, working in a diversity of languages. The readings were followed by brief Q&A discussions. Watch the recordings of the readings here!
The 2022 Winter Women in Translation reading series held its last event on March 9, 2022. The series built on PEN America’s commitment to support women’s voices in translation by raising awareness of translated literature by women, queer, and nonbinary authors, as well as promoting gender and cultural diversity in literary publishing. In total, nine translator-author pairs read their works in both original and translated languages, and the readings were followed by in-depth discussions about the translation process. In total, more than 60 people from around the world attended the readings. Watch the recordings of the readings here!
On March 8, 2022, the Translation Committee concluded its Translator-Editor Meet & Greet series, whose eleven events aimed to provide opportunities for emerging translators seeking to network with industry-recognized editors and publishers. During the events, editors from a myriad of presses were on hand to chat about their areas of expertise and learn from translators. Over the course of the series, 114 translators and 36 editors participated, and 35 languages were represented. Learn more about the series here.
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.
To celebrate 2020 National Poetry Month, we 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 recommend 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 took 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 was 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.
Open to any translator who is a member of PEN America, the PEN Translator Database is a resource for publishers, editors, and professionals seeking translators for their literary and professional projects, as well as translators who are looking to connect with others in their field or region. The database can be easily sorted, searched, and filtered to find the translator(s) you’re looking for.
If you’d like to consider joining PEN America, you can find more information here.
Records in the Translator Database are maintained by the co-chairs of the PEN Translation Committee. If you are a translator who would like to be included in the Translator Database, just fill out this form and your information will be immediately included.
**Please note that any updates/corrections to your entry must be entered manually; resubmitting the form will only result in duplicate entries. Email your updates to us at [email protected] and we will do our best to make the necessary changes as soon as possible. Updates are made every two months at minimum, following our bimonthly meetings, but we will make every attempt to implement necessary changes as requested.
Below is a preview of the database. View the entire database here.
World Literature Speakers’ Bureau for Public Libraries
In order to promote an appreciation of world literature and cultivate global solidarity within the general public in the U.S., members of PEN America’s Translation Committee are offering to speak at public libraries. Our members offer presentations on various topics related to the books which they have translated or the cultures/nations in which they specialize.
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)
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.
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.