Short stories smuggled out of North Korea given PEN Translation award

Short stories smuggled out of North Korea given PEN Translation award

A story collection smuggled out of North Korea - and translated by Man Booker International Prize-winner Deborah Smith - has been selected to receive a PEN Translation award from English PEN.

The Accusation, a short story collection by North Korean author Bandi, published by Serpent's Tail, is believed to be the first novel smuggled out of North Korea with the writer still living under the regime.

Smith, the collection's translator, scooped the Man Booker International Prize 2016 with South Korean author Han Kang for The Vegetarian (Portobello Books) in May this year.

The award, launched in 2012 with support from Arts Council England, is designed to encourage UK publishers to acquire more books from other languages. The accompanying grants are awarded in two rounds a year for books of "outstanding literary quality, strength and innovation" that contribute to "literary diversity" in the UK.  The amount of the grant varies depending on the size of the publisher: it usually provides funds of up to 75% of translation costs, but when a publisher’s annual turnover is less than £500,000, English PEN will consider supporting up to 100% of translation costs. The award-winning books are also featured on the English PEN World Bookshelf website. 

The PEN Translates award went to 10 titles in total, with other awarded authors comprising: Ismail Kadare for The Traitor's Niche, translated from Albanian by John Hodgson (Harvill Secker); Alain Mabanckou for Black Moses, translated from French by Helen Stevenson (Serpent's Tail); Wioletta Greg for Swallowing Mercury (Portobello Books); Muhsin Al-Ramli for The President's Gardens, translated from Arabic by Luke Leafgren (MacLehose Press); Juan Tomás Ávila Laurel for The Gurugu Pledge, translated from Spanish (And Other Stories); Margherita Giacobino for Portrait of a Family with a Fat White Daughter, translated from Italian (Dedalus Books); Esther Kinsky for River, translated from German by Iain Galbraith (Fitzcarraldo Editions);  Emiliano Monge for The Highway to Hell (working title), translated from Spanish by Frank Wynne (Scribe UK); Steven Uhly for Kingdom of Twilight, translated from German by Jamie Bulloch (MacLehose Press).        

Samantha Schnee, a trustee of English PEN and chair of the Writers in Translation committee, said: "At a time when xenophobia seems to be on the rise around the world, it’s increasingly important to build bridges between nations. The ten titles chosen to receive PEN Translates grants will be translated from nine different languages by award-winning translators; through these texts readers will be able to travel to nine different countries on four continents, greatly broadening our understanding of the world and the lives of others who may seem, at times, so far away as to be alien."

English PEN is now accepting applications from UK publishers for the next round of PEN Translates awards. The deadline for submissions is Monday 12th December.

The PEN Presents programme is also now open to submission from literary translators. It provides funding for a sample translation of a book which has not yet been acquired for English-language publication. The focus for this round of PEN Presents is East and South East Asia. The deadline for submissions is Monday (5th December).