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 2024.

2021 Honoree: 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.”

Pierre Joris headshot


Previous Winners

2018  Barbara Harshav

Barbara HarshavFrom the committee’s citation: “Barbara Harshav is a translator of great erudition and skill, with an unparalleled ear for the intricacies of language and an enviable lightness of touch. Working from French, German, Hebrew, and Yiddish, she has published over forty volumes of poetry, drama, fiction, philosophy, economics, sociology, and history, translating such writers as Yehuda Amichai, Michael Brenner, Kazik, Pascal Mercier, Stéphane Mosès, Meir Shalev, and Yoram Kaniuk – whose Between Life and Death earned her a place on the 2017 PEN Translation Prize shortlist. Harshav has often been praised for the elegance and precision of her translations and her masterful rendition of S.Y. Agnon’s virtuosic verbal complexities was singled out as a ‘marvelous stroke of talent’ that fully keeps pace with Agnon’s inventive, playful, and sonorous prose. With her husband Benjamin Harshav, Barbara translated and edited Sing, Stranger: a Century of American Yiddish Poetry, the comprehensive and definitive anthology of Yiddish poetry written in the United States. Their work has not only preserved an important chapter in American and Jewish history, but made hundreds of American poems available in English for the first time. Along with her prolific output, she has been an enthusiastic champion for the literary translation community, having taught languages and translation at Yale, served as a president of the American Literary Translators’ Association as well as a resident faculty member at the Banff International Literary Translation Centre. ‘Bobbi’ has been cherished as a mentor for decades. Her monthly translation workshop, where students, professionals, and others gather to hone their craft, has supported and nourished dozens of emerging and established translators. Barbara Harshav has been tireless as a translator and advocate of translation, and we are delighted to honor her for her many decades of service.”

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