An all-female line-up; Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, Rosalind Harvey, Sophie Hughes and Deborah Smith have been shortlisted for the £10,000 Arts Foundation Award for Literary Translation.
Judges for this award were Paul Blezard, writer and broadcaster, Amanda Hopkinson, writer, translator and founder of the annual Translation Day and Sebald Lectures, alongside Meike Ziergovel, writer and founder of Peirene Press. They selected the four writers from a longlist of UK-based translators of fiction who had been nominated by literary experts acrosst the translation genre.
This is the second time the Foundation has focused on this important artform as one of their chosen fellowships. As Amanda Hopkinson describes, “Only 3% of books sold in either the UK or the US are in translation compared to 30-50% in continental Europe. Yet, at a time when people appear to trust politicians less than ever, reading books in translation can help us understand other cultures from the inside, through the creativity of individual authors and translators. In Britain the whole literary translation sector has been transformed over the past 15 years, new literary awards, including the Arts Foundation, acknowledge the significance of cultural exchange and the role of the literary translator. ”
As noted by the judges each finalist had strategically selected their language of translation and was to some extent self-taught. Deborah Smith is the sole translator of Korean literature in the UK. Her most recent works, translations of contemporary female Korean author Han Kang, The Vegetarian (Portobello Books, 2015) received rave reviews and Human Acts, to be published in 2016 by Portobello Books. Sophie Hughes translates from Spanish with a particular focus on Mexican literature, a country in which she has spent time to understand and promote its rich literary culture. Her most recent translation is the critically acclaimed Ivan Repila’s The Boy Who Stole Attila’s Horse (Pushkin Press 2015). Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp is a multi-lingual translator with a focus on contemporary Arabic literature. Her translation of the controversial Bride of Amman by Zadi Zaghmout (Signal 8 Press, 2015) was noted for its faithfulness to the Levantine dialect it was translating. Co-founder of the Emerging Translators Network Rosalind Harvey translates from Spanish, and has worked extensively with Mexican writer Juan Pablo Villabolos whose latest work includes Quesadillas (And Other Stories, 2013). Her best known work Down the Rabbit Hole (And Other Stories, 2011) was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award.
A noticeable trait among all the shortlist was made by judge Meike Ziergovel who said; “What excited me most was to see how many translators extend their role beyond the creation of a workable English text. For them that’s only the beginning. In order to ensure that foreign fiction becomes part of our culture they realise that they must perform, blog and organize events. Because there is no better advocator than the translator.”
The £10,000 award is not a commission but to be used to pay for living and working expenses, allowing the artist, who has to show a track record in the art form, breathing space in order to further their practice. Over the past 23 years the Foundation has given over £1.6m to support artists from all areas of the arts.
The recipient of the award will be announced at a special ceremony on Thursday 28th January in London at the Arts Foundation Awards 2016 when £78,000 of awards will be announced across the Arts, with each of the runners up receiving £1000.
Other categories for 2016: Art in Urban Space, Materials Innovation, Jewellery Design, Producers of Live Music and Children’s Theatre.
More information here.