Indies dominate Women in Translation prize shortlist

Indies dominate Women in Translation prize shortlist

Titles from independent publishers Portbello, Pushkin, Comma, Fitzcarraldo Editions and The Gallery Press have been shortlisted for the inaugural Warwick Prize for Women in Translation, a new prize that aims to "address the gender imbalance" in translated literature and to increase the number of international women’s voices accessible by a British and Irish readership.

The winner will receive a £1,000 prize which will be divided equally between the writer and her translator.

The source languages represented are Polish and German, with two shortlisted titles apiece, as well as Irish and Russian.

Shortlisted from Portobello are Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg, translated from Polish by Eliza Marciniak and Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada, translated from German by Susan Bernofsky. Belarusian Nobel Laureate Svetlana Alexievich is also among the shortlistees, for Second-hand Time, translated by Bela Sheyavich (Fitzcarraldo Editions).

Also shortlisted are Swallow Summer by Larissa Boehning, translated from German by Lyn Marven (Comma Press), Clementine Loves Red by Krystyna Boglar, translated from Polish by Antonia Lloyd-Jones and Zosia Krasodomska-Jones (Pushkin Children’s Books) and The Coast Road by Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh, translated from Irish by Michael Coady, Peter Fallon, Tom French, Alan Gillis, Vona Groarke, John McAuliffe, Medbh McGuckian, Paul Muldoon, Michelle O’Sullivan, Justin Quinn, Billy Ramsell, Peter Sirr and David Wheatley (The Gallery Press).

The 2017 prize is being judged by Boyd Tonkin, special adviser for the Man Booker International Prize; Susan Bassnett, emeritus professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Warwick; and Amanda Hopkinson, visiting professor in Literary Translation, at City, University of London.

The judges said: “We are very happy at the quantity and quality of the submissions received for this inaugural prize. Insofar as this prize was intended to rectify a shortfall in the representation of women among translated writers, it has proved that a good range of writers is currently being translated.

“We hope that the prize will encourage publishers to be more serious about translating women writers. Without deliberately aiming to do so, our shortlist shows that there is much more to translation than is usually documented. Shifting borders in the east of Europe and the contraction of countries through history and geography was a real theme in the submissions for the prize, as was the experience of migration, and this is reflected in four of the six shortlisted titles.”

Dr Chantal Wright, the coordinator of the prize from the University of Warwick’s Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, added: “The response to this year’s inaugural competition has been wonderful. We received many more submissions than we expected across an array of genres – even including a graphic novel – and from publishers of all sizes.

“I’m particularly pleased that with Clementine Loves Red we have a collaborative translation among the shortlistees: this is a new translation model that has come about through the translation mentorship schemes that have been established in the UK over the last few years. The presence on the shortlist of The Coast Road, translated from Irish, which our judges described as a 'curiosity', is also great news: Irish publishers and their translations are often omitted from UK-based translation awards and we wanted to make sure they were included in this Warwick initiative. And with Comma Press’s Swallow Summer, the growing Northern Powerhouse of publishing is also happily represented.”

In 2018, And Other Stories and Tilted Axis have committed to only publishing books by female writers in 2018, in response to author Kamila Shamsie's call for a Year of Publishing Women to reset the gender imbalance in publishing. Two new independent publishers, Calisi Press and Les Fugitives, launched in 2015 with the remit of publishing only women in translation.

Translated titles account for around 3% of the overall UK print book market, according to Nielsen BookScan.

The winner of the inaugural prize will be announced in an evening ceremony at the Warwick Arts Centre on Wednesday 15th November.