Suzanne Jill Levine wins 2012 PEN Center USA’s Translation Award

There must be complicated historical reasons why the PEN American Center (based in NYC) and the PEN Center USA (based in LA) are separate entities. I don’t know that history, but I would guess, based on the dates of their founding – 1922 and 1981 respectively – that the PEN Center USA came about because of a feeling that the PEN American Center was too East-Coast-centric. And from the point of view of someone based in Boston or Baltimore, it no doubt looks NYC-centric. Which in fact it is. This makes sense, since – although like its West-Coast cousin it is a member organization of PEN International – the PEN American Center is not a government agency like the National Endowment for the Arts (whose activities it supplements, at least in the NYC area) and it has a limited budget. In any case, both centers give out literary awards and support translation. The PEN American Center is home to the PEN Translation Fund (which supports 10-12 translation projects a year) as well as several prestigious translation prizes; this year’s prizes will be announced on September 6 and presented at an awards ceremony on October 23. Meanwhile the PEN Center USA, which is on an somewhat earlier schedule, has just announced its 2012 Literary Award Winners. This year’s award recipient in the category Literary Translation is Suzanne Jill Levine, who is being honored for her translation of Chilean author José Donoso’s The Lizard’s Tale. This is a novel Donoso drafted in 1973; it was found among his papers after his death in 1996. Levine, who actually knew Donoso during his lifetime, previously translated two of his other books, A House in the Country and Hell Has No Limits. This year’s award was judged by James Hoggard, Birgit Nielsen and Marian Schwartz. The awards festival will be held on Oct. 22, 2012 in Beverly Hills. Congratulations, Jill!

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