PEN/Ralph Manheim Award for Translation

The PEN/Ralph Manheim Award for Translation is given every three years to a translator whose career has demonstrated a commitment to excellence through the body of their work. Nominations are solicited from PEN America Members and the winner is selected by a sub-committee of the PEN America Translation Committee

The award was initiated by funds donated by the late Bernard Malamud and by Gay Talese, and has received additional support from the family and friends of Ralph Manheim, the prolific and widely acclaimed English translator. Beginning in 2021, the award will be conferred with a $1,000 cash purse.

This award will be conferred next in the 2027 Literary Awards cycle.

2024 Winner: Suzanne Jill Levine

From the committee’s citation: “Suzanne Jill Levine is an iconic figure who has devoted her life to practicing, investigating, and teaching the art of literary translation. The ascent of Latin American literature in the anglophone world since the Latin Boom and the current state of the art of translation are inseparable from her more than fifty years of work. Her translations of critical Latin American authors profoundly impacted and broadened the variety of Hispanic literature in translation with innovative works by such writers as Clarice Lispector, Cecilia Vicuña, Jorge Luis Borges, Manuel Puig, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Carlos Fuentes, Julio Cortázar, and Guillermo Cabrera Infante, and she has championed many gender-fluid and gay authors. A scholar, prolific translator, bilingual writer and poet, and ‘mother’ to scores of essential translators active in our field today, Levine’s brilliance, famous sense of humor, and scholarly writing have been crucial to the development of the field of Translation Studies and have left a profound mark on the North-South dialogue.

In her book, The Subversive Scribe: Translating Latin American Fiction, Jill, as she prefers to be called, offered new language—transcreation, closelaboration—to describe the intuitive, intimate act of translation and did much to penetrate the “literalist prejudice” and unveil the dance of the translator herself.

It is fitting that Suzanne Jill Levine should receive the PEN/Ralph Manheim Award for Translation for her long career of translation artistry and advocacy, for the important role she has played in championing authors sometimes seen as ‘marginal,’ and for her work to educate and lift up generations of translators with her ethic of creativity, invention, intimacy, and compassion. The international literary world and the vibrancy of literature in the U.S. are richer for her efforts.”


Previous Winners

2021 Pierre Joris

From the committee’s citation: “In a landscape of literary translation that is still beholden to linguistic and national silos, Pierre Joris’s work has long been and remains essential in mapping currents and countercurrents of global modernity. As literary translation struggles to confront imperial histories of violence and erasure, and to engage with and encourage voices of cultural and linguistic differences, Joris has blazed a path for generations of emerging translators to follow. Having spent over half a century moving between Europe, the U.S., and North Africa, and working across multiple languages, Joris has built a stunning and unparalleled career as a translator, poet, essayist, editor, critic, performer, and academic. Indeed, Joris’s personal trajectory has fueled his articulation of a “nomad poetics” that cannot be contained by national or linguistic boundaries, one in which Anglo-European perspectives are enriched and complicated by those of the Global South, and where translation models the potentialities and necessary complexities of cross-cultural contact.

“As a translator, Joris’s major achievement is his magisterial and exhaustive work on Paul Celan; some of the other authors whose work he has brought into English are Adonis, Jean-Pierre Duprey, Safaa Fathy, Abdelwahab Meddeb, Pablo Picasso, Rainer Maria Rilke, Kurt Schwitters, Habib Tengour, and Tristan Tzara; into French, the authors include Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Sam Shepard, and Pete Townshend. The PEN Translation Committee is delighted to honor Pierre Joris for his achievements and contributions, and for opening the global field of literary translation, both on and off the page, for over half a century.”

2018  Barbara Harshav

2015  Burton Watson

2012  Margaret Sayers Peden

2009 Michael Henry Heim

2006  Edith Grossman

2003  Donald Keene

2000  Edmund Keeley

1997  Robert Fagles

1994  Richard Wilbur

1991  William Weaver

1988  Ralph Manheim

1985  Richard Howard

1982  Gregory Rabassa

Selection Process

Nominations for this award are solicited from Professional Members of PEN America. Each year’s judging panel takes these nominations into consideration, and all nominations may be supplemented by nominations from the judges themselves. The winner is selected by a sub-committee of the PEN America Translation Committee