Peirene Stevns Translation Prize postponed after publisher objects

Peirene Stevns Translation Prize postponed after publisher objects

A prize for new translators run by indie Peirene Press has been delayed after a European publisher objected to a "beginner" working on its book.

The Peirene Stevns Translation Prize was launched last year, attracting entries from around 70 people who were asked to translate Neve, Cane, Piede (Exorma) by Claudio Morandini. Winner J Ockenden has now written a full translation of the book with help from a mentor and also spent around two months at a Pyrenees retreat as part of the prize. The book, Snow, Dog, Foot (Peirene Press), will be available to subscribers from December, with full publication on 15th February 2020.

However, despite the inaugural prize’s success, the 2019 award hangs in the balance after the deal for the book Peirene wanted to be translated fell through. 

Molly Skinner, co-mangaging director of Peirene, said: “We were looking at a book and were in conversation with the original publisher for about three months. We went back and forth over the terms of the rights.

“When it came to signing on the dotted line, they said they wanted an established translator instead. They said ‘we don’t want an absolute beginner working on it’.”

Skinner said it was a disappointingly risk-averse response that showed exactly why the prize was needed in the first place.

Peirene, who did not wish to identify the publisher involved, is now looking at other upcoming books on its list to hopefully launch the prize again in November. It is also considering modifying the rules after a large number of translators contacted it last year saying they had already been published unpaid in order to get their foot in the door.

“That was a real surprise,” she said. “Those people reached out to say ‘I’ve had a book out but I was never paid for it and I still need a prize like this.”

She added: “It’s a really great scheme it worked really well last year. We’re excited to run it again. We’re gutted we haven’t been able to get it launched quite when we wanted to but watch this space.”