The Translators' Association First Translation Prize, set up by writer and translator Daniel Hahn, has revealed its inaugural shortlist.
Among those in the running for the accolade, which celebrates new talent, new voices, skill and risk-taking, are a graphic novel, four works of fiction and one non-fiction book. The translations span Arabic and French to Polish, Russian and Thai by new literary translators.
Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi (Les Fugitives), translated from the French by Jeffrey Zuckerman, edited by Cécile Menon and Angeline Rothermundt, has made the cut. It is described as "a beautiful thing, undeniably powerful", by the judges. Second-hand Time, "a work of extraordinary, sustained virtuosity" by Svetlana Alexievich, translated from the Russian by Bela Shayevich, edited by Jacques Testard (Fitzcarraldo Editions) is also in the running, along with "memorable gem" Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg, translated from the Polish by Eliza Marciniak, edited by Max Porter and Ka Bradley (Portobello Books).
Rounding out the shortlist are The Sad Part Was, an "inventive, experimental, playful and ironical" title by Prabda Yoon, translated from the Thai by Mui Poopoksakul, edited by Deborah Smith (Tilted Axis Press), The Queue, "a slow but powerful burn of a novel" by Basma Abdel Aziz, translated from the Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette, edited by Sal Robinson, Taylor Sperry and Željka Marošević (Melville House), and graphic novel Notes on a Thesis by Tiphaine Rivière, translated from the French by Francesca Barrie, edited by Clare Bullock (Jonathan Cape), which was selected by the judges for its "hilariously accurate depiction" of the joys, grustrations and absurdities of academic life.
The TA First Translation Prize was founded last year by translator Hahn (pictured) with his share of the winnings from the International Dublin Literary Award. The aim of the award is to recognise new talent in the translation profession – an arena which Hahn said at the time "remains a difficult one for newcomers to break into". It is also designed to reward editors who take a chance on a debut translator and then work with them to improve their skills.
Hahn said the prize was established as a celebration of "those people who want to expand what readers can read, by looking outwards – at a time when our culture (political and otherwise) seems fixated on doing the opposite".
He added: "If the books submitted tell us anything about the direction of translated literature in the UK today, it’s good news. We received over twenty books - each of them, remember, the work of an entirely new translator entering the ranks of the profession, and when we came to our shortlisting meeting, we identified no fewer than fifteen of them as really plausible candidates for the prize. It’s no wonder we have a shortlist we’re so proud of."
He added: "Five of the six shortlisted translators are women. More pleasingly still, five of the six original writers are women, too – dramatically bucking the prevailing trend! But perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised at how much this list differs from the picture we’ve grown used to seeing: many of the writers are themselves making their English debuts with these books, confirming a suspicion that new translators are most often also vehicles for the new writers, and so are truly at the vanguard of literary change. How thrilling to be able to celebrate that today."
The winning work will be announced at the Society of Authors’ Translation Prizes ceremony at The British Library on 1st March, with the prize fund of £2,000 to be shared equally between the translator and their editor(s).
The prize is judged this year by Rosalind Harvey, Bill Swainson and Daniel Hahn, and has been generously supported by The British Council.