Beyond Words - Language Blog

2009 PEN Translation Prizes Announced

Every year, the PEN American Center recognizes the contribution of literary translators to the advancement of literature and free expression. Here are this year’s winners:

The PEN Translation Prize ($3,000)

Natasha Wimmer for her translation from the Spanish of Roberto Bolano’s 2666.

Wimmer’s translation has won several literary honors, including TIME’s Best Book of 2008 (they only mention Wimmer in passing, but at least it’s to say that her translation is “flawless”. The magazine wrote the following:

The relentless gratuitousness of 2666 has its own logic and its own power, which builds into something overwhelming that hits you all the harder because you don’t see it coming. This is a dangerous book, and you can get lost in it. How can art, Bolaño is asking, a medium of form and meaning, reflect a world that is blessed with neither?

The PEN Award for Poetry in Translation ($3,000)

Marilyn Hacker for her translation from the French of King of a Hundred Horsemen by Marie Étienne. Here is a description from the publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

Through a profound and complex reinterpretation of the sonnet form, the book reflects, as in a mosaic of shattered mirrors, many of the writer’s ongoing preoccupations: the relationship of East and West; an eroticism at once physical and cerebral; the interaction of poetry and prose; the strange blending of the everyday and the foreign, in which the most “exotic” journeys become ordinary and the most ordinary displacements partake of the strange.

Read about the other winners here.