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Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize

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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.

 

This year’s judges are Patrick McGuinness, Marta Arnaldi, Karolina Watroba, and Simon Park (Chair).

 

The 2020 shortlist is:

 

Michális Ganás, A Greek Ballad (Yale UP), translated from the Greek by David Connolly and Joshua Barley

Pajtim Statovci, Crossing (Pushkin Press), translated from the Finnish by David Hackston

Mahir Guven, Older Brother (Europa), translated from the French by Tina Kover

Tatyana Tolstaya, Aetherial Worlds (Daunt Books), translated from the Russian by Anya Migdal

Multatuli, Max Havelaar (New York Review Books), translated from the Dutch by Ina Rilke and David McKay

Dušan Šarotar, Billiards at the Hotel Dobray (Istros Books), translated from the Slovene by Rawley Grau

Dina Salústio, The Madwoman of Serrano (Dedalus), translated from the Portuguese by Jethro Soutar

Birgit Vanderbeke, You Would Have Missed Me (Peirene Press), translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch

 

The winner of this year’s Prize is David Hackston for his translation of Pajtim Statovci’s Crossing (Pushkin Press).

 

To accompany the award of the Prize, St Anne’s and Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT) have uploaded a number of videos in which the shortlisted translators discuss or read from their respective translations here: https://www.occt.ox.ac.uk/shortlisted-oxford-weidenfeld-prize-translators-reading-and-discussing-their-translations.

 

Here are the judges’ citations:

 

WINNER: Pajtim Statovci, Crossing (Pushkin Press), translated from the Finnish by David Hackston

 

It is no coincidence that the title of Finnish-Kosovan writer, Pajtim Statovci’s second novel (Tiranan Sydän, literally Heart of Tirana) has been translated into English as Crossing. The story of two young men trying to leave post-communist Albania, Crossing is a continuous exploration and explosion of borders: male and female, health and disease, life and death, migration and return, falsity and truth. After leaving Albania, Statovci’s protagonist seeks repeated new beginnings in Italy, Spain, the US, and Finland. But each beginning is never really new. Bujar borrows and steals stories from others as they try to reinvent themselves and as much as they would like to forget their past, they can never truly leave it behind. David Hackston’s impeccable translation never falters in the voices he gives to the characters. He switches effortlessly from Bujar’s father’s idiom of legends and fairytales to the obsessive, runaway sentences of the protagonist’s inner reflections. This is a heartbreaking novel that addresses some of the most urgent questions we face, but refuses to give us any simple answers.

 

Mahir Guven, Older Brother (Europa), translated from the French by Tina Kover

 

With all the pace and excitement of a thriller, Mahir Guven’s Older Brother throws us headfirst into the frictions of twenty-first century France. The story is told from two perspectives within the same family, that of the older brother who has stayed in France as a taxi driver and that of the idealistic younger brother who goes to Syria as a nurse in unclear circumstances and who may or may not have returned to Paris when the novel begins. Like the older brother, we try to piece together what has really happened to the younger brother from glimpses, rumours, memories, and news reports. Tina Kover sweeps us along in this paranoid guessing game. She renders the spiky voice of the older brother deftly, as he switches from expletives to streetwise philosophizing. Read it to be drawn into the uncomfortable tensions at the centre of a family, a city, and a country at large.

 

Dušan Šarotar, Billiards at the Hotel Dobray (Istros Books), translated from the Slovene by Rawley Grau

 

Silence sits at the heart of Dušan Šarotar’s Billiards at the Hotel Dobray. The town of Sóbota lies stagnant, waiting for the upheaval of the end of the second world war to reach it. As the soldiers stationed at the Hotel Dobray sit in wait for what is to come, the recent past slowly surfaces amid the murk and covert activities of the town. Rawley Grau’s elegant translation conjures the thick atmosphere of Šarotar’s novel and conveys its surprising imagery with poise.

 

Tatyana Tolstaya, Aetherial Worlds (Daunt Books), translated from the Russian by Anya Migdal

 

This collection of stories impressed the judges for its variety, for the ingenuity of its thinking and the depth of its insights. Moving, sad, funny, surreal, and always questioning what we think we know or remember, Tolstaya is a writer at the height of her powers. In Anya Migdal she has a translator with perfect pitch, always ready to rise to the challenge of the next transition, the next shift of tone and subject, and who has made an unmistakeable voice for her in English.

 

Birgit Vanderbeke, You Would Have Missed Me (Peirene Press), translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch

 

This powerful and atmospheric novella about Cold War East and West Germany takes us back to a moment in our European history when the promise of the future was already tinged with jadedness. A masterpiece of economy, it is also sustained feat of fictional voice: a child's eye view of a small geographical movement that feels, like a movement between lives and between worlds. The translator, Jamie Bulloch, rendered its intensity, as well as its melancholy and humour, in English that never once loses in precision or misses its effect. The kind of short book that stays a long time with us. 

 

Michális Ganás, A Greek Ballad (Yale UP), translated from the Greek by David Connolly and Joshua Barley 

 

David Connolly and Joshua Barley’s selection of, and translations from, Michális Ganás’s poetry is the first to be made available in the English language. It is a jointly translatorly and poetic tour de force that proves to be a mesmerising exploration of genres and styles. Connolly and Barley’s pioneering enterprise responds effortlessly to the range of challenges Ganás’s oeuvre presents for the translator: their renditions are inventive and formally exact when needed and stripped back when the original is elegantly succinct.

 

Multatuli, Max Havelaar (New York Review Books), translated from the Dutch by Ina Rilke and David McKay

 

This retranslation of one of the most discussed novels in the history of Dutch literature is very timely, as we continue to face up to the damage that has been wrought by the colonial and imperial exploits of the European powers. First published in 1860 and set partly in the Netherlands and party in Indonesia, this novel helped change the public narrative about the colonial Dutch East Indies by forcing its readers to confront its fundamental injustice and brutality. This is achieved through a series of effortlessly executed experimental literary techniques which, however, do not diminish the readability of the novel: quite the opposite, they draw the reader in and demand them to take a stand. This new translation matches the effortlessness of the original and carefully but effectively frames Max Havelaar with up-to-date historical and scholarly commentary and, through the introduction and cover art, gives the perspectives of Indonesian artists Pramoedya Ananta Toer and Raden Saleh.

 

Dina Salústio, The Madwoman of Serrano (Dedalus), translated from the Portuguese by Jethro Soutar

 

The plot of Salústio’s novel moves between a traditional village and a big city. The village, seemingly untouched by the passage of time, is in fact threatened by ecological destruction and deeply impacted by changing gender dynamics. At its core, The Madwoman of Serrano is an intricate family chronicle, with the narrative mode at times reminiscent of magical realism, a detective novel, and even soap opera. The energetic, witty, and fast-paced narrative twists and turns in an attempt to make sense of the conflicting allegiances of the main characters, including a powerful businesswoman with a mysterious past. Originally published in the 1990s, this was the first novel by a woman to ever come out in Cape Verde, and now becomes the first to be translated into English, as part of Dedalus’s ambitious programme of introducing new translated voices of African writers to English readers.