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Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize

We are extremely pleased to announce that the winner of the Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize 2022 is Nancy Naomi Carlson, for her translation of Cargo Hold of Stars by Khal Torabully (Seagull Books)!

 

The 2022 Shortlist

Stuart Bell's translation of Bird Me by Édith Azam – French, the87 press 

Jen Calleja's translation of The Liquid Land by Raphaela Edelbauer – German, Scribe 

Nancy Naomi Carlson's translation of Cargo Hold of Stars by Khal Torabully – French (Mauritian), Seagull Books 

Sasha Dugdale's translation of In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova – Russian, Fitzcarraldo 

Daniel Hahn's translation of Occupation by Julian Fuks – Portuguese (Brazil), Charco Press 

Rachael McGill's translation of Co-Wives, Co-Widows by Adrienne Yabouza – French/Sangho (CAR), Dedalus 

Tiago Miller's translation of The Song of Youth by Montserrat Roig – Catalan, Fum D’Estampa Press 

Cristina Sandu's translation of Union of Synchronised Swimmers by Cristina Sandu – Finnish, Scribe 

 

Here are the Judges' Citations:

Bird Me 

In this lyrical translation by Stuart Bell, the speaker has rivers in her pockets and birds in her blood. Yet Hannah her beloved, the one who makes the river dance and pecks her ‘terrible beso’ at the agonised speaker, is uncontainable. The language of queer desire in Bird Me is both arrestingly idiosyncratic (Hannah ‘redimensions me : | in space’), and simply tender: ‘Hannah is a bird | Hannah is…| Hannah I’d love | to be her nest’. This translation is published by the87 Press, a radical South London publishing collective. This small press focuses on experimental work ‘at the intersections of race, class, gender, sexuality, and neurodiversity’. Bird Me is the first translation of Azam’s poetry into English, and one of several of Stuart Bell’s translations published by this press.

 

The Liquid Land 

The Liquid Land is about a community with literal ‘cracks…all over the place’. Greater Einland is sinking into ground breaking frighteningly apart, the herringbone parquets and facades of public buildings fissuring ever more visibly as the novel progresses. This translation deftly captures a certain silencing politeness, and its relation to trauma both personal and collective. The narrator, Ruth, a physicist, struggles to say ‘no’ to Greater Einland’s cajoling and commanding Countess who demands that she help find some filler for the cracks. In Jen Calleja’s often deadpan and very funny translation, the archly formal and dismissive language of Ruth’s conversations with the Countess and other members of the community stretches over a raw sense of unease. This unforgettably evokes the creaking structures of the buildings slipping over ‘the liquid land’ itself. 

 

Cargo Hold of Stars: Coolitude

In Khal Torabully’s Cargo Hold of Stars: Coolitude, poetry speaks for all humanity. Echoing Aimé Césaire’s notion of ‘negritude,’ Coolitude is a term coined by Torabully himself to summon over the absent presence of the indentured labourers who were taken from their homes in India, China and other Asian communities into forced labour in the island of Mauritius. Divided into three parts - The Book of Métissage, The Book of the Journey and The Book of Departure - , the volume pivots around a vital paradox: rootedness vs uprooting. In a language marked with lyrical richness, wordplay and corporeal imageries, Torabully writes these labourers into poetry through archiving their names, bodies and lived and endured experiences. Written in French interspersed with Mauritian creole, Hindi, Bhojpuri, and Urdu, thereby reaffirming these labourers’ plurilingualism and multiple geographies of origin, this is a book where names, religions, languages and bodies combine to form an ever-resounding ode for the absented. In this brilliant translation, Nancy Naomi Carlson embroiders an English that matches and reaffirms the multi-layered and multitextured French, through which Torabully and Carlson walk together hand in hand.

“My skin sings more than I do” contends Torabully. This writing is flesh translated into a poem.

 

In Memory of Memory

Maria Stepanova offers a series of reflections on personal and cultural memory in this genre-defying book of extraordinary scope. The discovery of an array of photographs, objects, postcards, diaries, and letters following the death of an aunt prompt Stepanova to write the history of her Russian-Jewish family which opens onto a wider history of the Soviet Union. The book shifts between memoir, essay, criticism, travelogue, historical document as it toys with the limit between fiction and non-fiction. The tenderness of these intimate yet wide-ranging reminiscences and meditations is masterfully maintained in Sasha Dugdale’s eloquent and poetic translation.  

 

Occupation

This unsettling book, the second in a trilogy by Brazilian writer and journalist Julián Fuks, follows a narrator, whose father has been hospitalized with a life-threatening illness and whose wife has decided she wants a child, as he interviews the inhabitants of a São Paulo squat which was once a luxury hotel. The voices of the novel occupy buildings, bodies, and stories as the narrator questions what role there is for literature in times of crisis and destruction, both personal and collective. The measured translation by Daniel Hahn ensures that a sense of dispossession pervades every line of this self-conscious narrative. 

 

Co-wives, Co-widows

Set in the Central African Republic, Adrienne Yabouza’s novel Co-Wives, Co-Widows closely follows the intersecting lives of Ndongo Passy and Grekpoubou, as they navigate their own positionality in the wake of their husband’s death. With unwavering playfulness and raw humour, meandering through the national and the personal, the book – which is deftly and brilliantly conveyed into English by Rachel McGill - grapples with questions of social justice, womanhood, and politics while at the same time weaving a plot concerned with the two protagonists’ survival as active subjects. Co-Wives, Co-Widows powerfully recentres the very meaning of sorority not only in its solidary facets but more so as an existential tie through which different forms of exploitation and patriarchy are outwitted and eventually repelled. This important translation by Rachel McGill is to be particularly commended for so carefully recapturing the intimate specifics in and of these two women’s lives which underpin and uphold the very spirit of this book.

 

The Song of Youth

The Catalan writer Montserrat Roig’s fiction has been brought to an Anglophone audience for the first time in the form of Tiago Miller’s translation of the 8-story collection The Song of Youth. Miller subtly captures the disjointed, otherworldly nature of Roig’s narrative which spans a dazzling range of subjects: from institutional disquiet to the intricacies of female friendship to a fatal obsession with giraffes. Miller’s translation eschews perfectionism in favour of a voice that is by turns unsettling, searching, enlivening--and as such perfectly alert to the seductively estranging nature of Roig’s prose.

 

The Union of Synchronised Swimmers

Cristina Sandu’s accomplished self-translation of The Union of Synchronised Swimmers moves smoothly between surface and depth, giving voice to an array of experiences of women living, working and loving in foreign countries while grappling with questions of identity, memory and a past that is never truly past. There is an irreverence to Sandu’s English voice that, combined with the interspersed deadpan descriptions of a newly formed Olympic synchronised swimming team, pushes the prose into experimental narrative waters. If one abandons oneself to the pull of this current, the narrative offers a vivid taste of modern alienation that lingers long after this slim volume has been put down.

 

 

This year, we introduced the Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize Longlist for the first time, in order better to celebrate and showcase the range of brilliant entries for the Prize.

The 2022 Longlist

Bernard Adams's translation of The Hangman's House by Andrea Tompa - Hungarian, Seagull Books. 

Stuart Bell's translation of Bird Me by Édith Azam – French, the87 press 

Jack Bevan's translation of the Complete Poems of Salvatore Quasimodo - Italian, Carcanet 

Alexandra Büchler's translation of Dream of a Journey by Kateřina Rudčenková – Czech, Parthian 

Jen Calleja's translation of The Liquid Land by Raphaela Edelbauer – German, Scribe 

Nancy Naomi Carlson's translation of Cargo Hold of Stars by Khal Torabully – French (Mauritian), Seagull Books 

Sasha Dugdale's translation of In Memory of Memory by Maria Stepanova – Russian, Fitzcarraldo 

Daniel Hahn's translation of Occupation by Julian Fuks – Portuguese (Brazil), Charco Press 

John Litell's translation of Nordic Fauna by Andrea Lundgren – Swedish, Peirene 

Janet Livingstone's translation of Boat Number Five by Monika Kompaníková – Slovak, Seagull Books 

Rachael McGill's translation of Co-Wives, Co-Widows by Adrienne Yabouza – French/Sangho (CAR), Dedalus 

Tiago Miller's translation of The Song of Youth by Montserrat Roig – Catalan, Fum D’Estampa Press 

Julia Sanches's translation of Permafrost by Eva Baltasar – Catalan, And Other Stories 

Cristina Sandu's translation of Union of Synchronised Swimmers by Cristina Sandu – Finnish, Scribe 

Damion Searls's translation of A New Name by Jon Fosse – Norwegian, Fitzcarraldo 

Jeffrey Zuckerman's translation of Night As It Falls by Jakuta Alikavazovic – French, Faber 

 

 

Thank you to everyone for a huge range of entries.

 

The Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize is for book-length literary translations into English from any living European language. It aims to honour the craft of translation and to recognise its cultural importance. It was founded by Lord Weidenfeld and is supported by New College, The Queen’s College, and St Anne’s College, Oxford.

Recent winners include: Nichola Smalley for Andrzej Tichý’s Wretchedness (And Other Stories); David Hackston for Pajtim Statovci’s Crossing (Pushkin); Celia Hawkesworth for Ivo Andrić’s Omer Pasha Latas (New York Review Books); Lisa Dillman for Andrés Barba’s Such Small Hands (Portobello); Frank Perry for Lina Wolff's Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs (And Other Stories); Philip Roughton for Jón Kalman Stefánsson’s The Heart of Man (MacLehose); Paul Vincent and John Irons for 100 Dutch-Language Poems (Holland Park); Susan Bernofsky for Jenny Erpenbeck's The End of Days (Portobello); Susan Wicks for Valérie Rouzeau’s Talking Vrouz (Arc); Philip Boehm for Herta Müller’s The Hunger Angel (Portobello); Judith Landry for Diego Marani’s New Finnish Grammar (Dedalus)

This year’s judges are, Vittoria Fallanca, Holly Langstaff, Yousif M. Qasmiyeh, and Laura Seymour (Chair).

The prize of £2000 will be awarded at Oxford Translation Day on 11 June 2022, at St Anne’s College. Oxford Translation Day will feature talks, seminars and workshops, and will give shortlisted translators the opportunity to read from and discuss their work.