TA First Translation Prize Shortlist Announced

The TA First Translation Prize (TA stands for “Translators Association”) was founded and endowed last spring by translator Daniel Hahn, who in an incredible act of generosity plunked down half his winnings from the International Dublin Literary Award for the purpose. The prize is also supported by the British Council, and will be presented along with the nine other annual translation awards given out by the Society of Authors’ Translators Association each February. This new prize is special for several different reasons. Its being funded by a translator is exceptional but not unique. It’s equally unusual for being a prize for a first book in translation. And it’s sui generis as a prize that equally honors the translator and the editor of the book (who will split the £2000 purse), acknowledging the all-too-seldom-acknowledged fact that editors can have an enormous impact on the quality of a translated book, particularly in the case of a first book by a translator. And in many cases an editor has gone out on a limb by offering a brand-new translator their first book-length gig, and this bravery too merits celebration, as does their acuity in recognizing new talent. So bravo, well done, and thank you, Danny, for launching this very special prize.

Behold this year’s shortlisted translators and editors of books published in the UK between April 2016 and March 2017:

  • Francesca Barrie, shortlisted with her editor Clare Bullock for her translation from the French of Tiphaine Rivière’s Notes on a Thesis (Jonathan Cape)
  • Elisabeth Jaquette, shortlisted with her editors Sal Robinson, Taylor Sperry and Željka Marošević for her translation from the Arabic of Basma Abdel Aziz’s The Queue (Melville House UK)
  • Eliza Marciniak, shortlisted with her editors Max Porter and Ka Bradley for her translation from the Polish of Wioletta Greg’s Swallowing Mercury (Portobello Books)
  • Mui Poopoksakul, shortlisted with her editor Deborah Smith for her translation from the Thai of Prabda Yoon’s The Sad Part Was (Tilted Axis Press)
  • Bela Shayevich, shortlisted with her editor Jacques Testard for her translation from the Russian of Svetlana Alexievich’s Second-Hand Time (Fitzcarraldo Editions)
  • Jeffrey Zuckerman, shortlisted with his editors Cécile Menon and Angeline Rothermundt for his translation from the French of Ananda Devi’s Eve Out of Her Ruins (Les Fugitives)

You’ll find more details about the prize and the books (and more pictures!) on the Society of Authors website.

In the words of Daniel Hahn, who is serving as a judge this year along with Rosalind Harvey and Bill Swainson, “That’s four novels, a graphic novel and a work of non-fiction. They come from five languages, from six countries (France, Poland, Belarus, Mauritius, Egypt, Thailand). And five of the six books were written by women.” How do you like that? I for one am pretty chuffed.

I’d also like to point out the one of the books on the list, Swallowing Mercury, was co-published with Transit Books in the U.S., itself a brand-new publishing house for translated books (not its very first book, but I think only the second).

There are books on this list that I’ve seen long- and shortlisted for other prizes as well. This bodes well for the future of our profession. Many congratulations to all these spectacularly successful translation debutants!

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