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PEN Translation Prize

The PEN Translation Prize invites submissions of book-length translations from any language into English published during the current calendar year. The award confers a $3,000 prize on the author of the winning book.

Len Rix, for his Translation of Magda Szabo’s KATALIN STREET (NYRB Classics)

Winner of the 2018 PEN Translation Prize

From the judges’ citation: “The jury is proud to honor Len Rix’s exceptional translation of Magda Szabo’s novel Katalin Street, which tracks the intertwined lives of three Budapest families before and after the devastation of World War II. This beautiful translation illuminates Szabo’s deep humanity. Translating Katalin Street’s intricate, elegant text required tremendous subtlety and artistry to achieve such flawlessness, and Rix clearly possesses the mastery to allow Szabo herself to stand out as an exemplary writer. This translation from the Hungarian does that, and Len Rix has gained lifelong admirers among the jury.”

LEN RIX is a poet, critic, and former literature professor who has translated six books by Antal Szerb, including the novel Journey by Moonlight (available as an NYRB Classic) and The Martian’s Guide to Budapest. In 2006 he was awarded the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize for his translation of Magda Szabó’s The Door (also available as an NYRB Classic), which was one of The New York Times Book Review’s ten best books of 2015.


Reviews and Praise

“In Katalin Street, the past is never dormant, never settled. The past is an open wound, a life force busily shaping an increasingly bewildering present. In describing Henriette’s plight, Szabó writes: ‘From the moment she arrived she had been left to work out the rules and the customs of the place entirely by herself.’ In this extraordinary novel, the same could be said for the living.”—Laura van den Berg, The New York Times Book Review

“Three families, whose lives are inextricably linked by the street they inhabit, grapple with love and morality amid political upheaval. In English for the first time and impeccably translated by Rix, Szabó’s quietly captivating novel excavates the tangled history of Hungary’s capital from the portentous moments before the German occupation to its suffocating postwar regime….A visceral, sweeping depiction of life in the shuddering wake of wartime.”—Kirkus Review



Suddenly they became aware that they were not alone. As in the final scene at the opera when all the dramatis personae are brought together onstage, everyone was there, standing at the gate – the man in uniform, the smartly dressed woman with red hair, Henriette’s father, the slovenly woman, the bald man with spectacles and Mrs Held. Mrs Held came towards them, then suddenly stopped, leaned over to inhale the scent of a crimson rose, and declared:
“We shall live here till the day we die.”
That was the one sentence spoken on that day that had stayed in Henriette’s memory. She had no idea what it meant. She had no idea what life was, or death.


Read more from KATALIN STREET… 


2018 PEN Translation Prize Finalists

The Book of Emma Reyes, Emma Reyes (Penguin)
translated from the Spanish by Daniel Alarcón
IndieBound | Amazon

A Horse Walks into a Bar, David Grossman (Vintage)
translated from the Hebrew by Jessica Cohen
IndieBound | Amazon

Out in the Open, Jesús Carrasco (Riverhead Books)
translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa
IndieBound | Amazon

The Impossible Fairy Tale, Han Yujoo (Graywolf Press)
translated from the Korean by Janet Hong
IndieBound | Amazon


2018 Judges

Denise Newman’s poetry collections are Future People, The New Make Believe, Wild Goods, and Human Forest. She is the translator of Azorno and The Painted Room, both by the late Danish poet, Inger Christensen, and Baboon by Naja Marie Aidt, which won the 2015 PEN Translation Award and an NEA Fellowship. She teaches at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco.

Eric M. B. Becker is a literary translator, journalist, and editor of Words without Borders. In 2014, he earned a PEN/Heim grant, and in 2016, he was awarded a Fulbright to translate Brazilian literature. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Freeman’s, Guernica, and elsewhere. His most recent translation is Martha Batalha’s The Invisible Life of Guida Gusmão, named a Huffington Post “Must Read.” He lives in New York.
 Jenny Wang Medina is a translator and PhD candidate in East Asian languages and cultures at Columbia University in New York City. Her dissertation examines the reinvention of Korean culture in the twenty-first century and questions of ethnicity and transcultural identity. She is the translator of Oh Jung-hee’s novella The Bird (Telegram Books, 2006), as well as short stories by Kim Young-ha, Park Min-gyu, Kim Jung-hyuk, and Kim Nam-ch’on.
Lara Vergnaud is a literary translator who has translated works from the French by authors such as Ahmed Bouanani, Joy Sorman, Marie-Monique Robin, and Scholastique Mukasonga. She received a 2013 PEN/Heim Translation Grant for her translation of Zahia Rahmani’s France, Story of a Childhood, which was nominated for the 2017 National Translation Award, and a 2015 French Voices award for her translation of Danielle Michel-Chich’s Letter to Zohra D. She currently lives in Washington, D.C.
Lisa Hayden’s translations from the Russian include Eugene Vodolazkin’s Laurus, which won the 2016 Read Russia Prize for Contemporary Russian Literature and was shortlisted for the 2016 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize; Vadim Levental’s Masha Regina, which was also shortlisted for the Oxford-Weidenfeld award; and Marina Stepnova’s The Women of Lazarus. Lisa’s blog, Lizok’s Bookshelf, focuses on contemporary Russian fiction. She is a member of the Literary Academy, the jury for Russia’s Big Book Award.

Submission Guidelines

Submissions for the 2019 awards cycle will open on June 1, 2018. Please note that PEN only accepted submissions from publishers or literary agents. Authors were not to submit their own book for this award.


    • Eligible titles are original book-length literary translations published between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018, by a U.S. trade publisher.
    • Translators are of any nationality; U.S. residency or citizenship is not required.
    • Although all eligible books must have been published in the United States, there are no restrictions on the subject matter of translated works, although eligible titles were of a literary character.
    • Books must have one or two translators at most.
    • Authors are not to submit title for any additional PEN America awards. (PEN/Faulkner is not considered PEN America awards.)