The Literary Saloon tells me that they've announced the shortlist for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize "for translations into English from any living European language which have been published, are book-length, and are distributed in the UK."

Always good to see translated books getting some love but, as The Literary Saloon point out, "every title on this list [below] save the Mayröcker poetry collection is a new translation of a previously-available-in-English title. (Yes, even the Hermans, though that Roy Edwards translation from nearly half a century ago pretty much disappeared without a fight.) Surely this can't be a good thing." Indeed.

The list:

  • Margaret Jull Costa for Eça de Queiroz's The Maias
  • Richard Dove for Friederike Mayröcker's Raving Language: Selected Poems 1946-2006
  • Jamie McKendrick for Giorgio Bassani's The Garden of the Finzi-Continis
  • Mike Mitchell for Georges Rodenbach's The Bells of Bruges
  • Natasha Randall for Yevgeny Zamyatin's We
  • Ina Rilke for W. F. Hermans' The Darkroom of Damocles

Readers Comments

  1. Reading the LS, I always want to know who "they" is in "they've announced". Is it the same people who announce every shortlist of every prize? If it is, shouldn't we know who they are? And how about suggesting some good translations of previously untranslated works? I seem to remember Matthew Reynolds' reviews in the TLS being particularly good, so I'm glad there's someone on the judging panel who seems to have a feeling for literature and not just some big name with a feeling for an advance.

  2. It's interesting that today should be such a big "translations" day at RSB. Yesterday I attended a talk by Michael Henry Heim, one of the most prolific American translators and the man responsible for the newest translation of Death in Venice, about the merits of retranslation. Retranslation is sometimes necessary. In the case of Chekhov, whose language still seems casual and colloquial to Russian readers, an update is needed to keep it colloquial in English. Also, initial translations (especially for authors like Mann) are usually performed on a tight schedule, leading to more mistakes. With multiple translations come multiple readings of a work which can be very useful in scholarship. I was convinced by his reasoning, and so I am happy to see so many retranslations winning awards. Perhaps these new ones will lead to even more complete understandings of the texts by English-speakers and a better ability to examine them in the context of English literature.

  3. Tom Cunliffe Monday 05 May 2008

    In response to Rachel - I am interrested to read that Death in Venice has a new translator and I wonder how he will compare with John E Woods who had done such excellent work on Dr Faustus and Magic Mountain. Retranslation in these cases has resulted to my mind in a far more readable book in both cases.

    I wonder what people think of the Penguin re-translation of Proust - where each volume was given to a different translator. I'm still trying to make up my mind on that one! (a process which will take several years in view of the length of the work).

  4. Tom, with regards to the Proust translation - if I read him again it will be in the Scott Moncrieff/Kilmartin translation. But maybe the new Penguin suffers from design rather than translation. The text is too small. In my 1983 Penguin Classics three-volume edition (the one in black rather than light green, a distinction which also seems important!), the text is dense but luxuriously large. It suits Proust's/Moncrieff's style.

  5. Retranslations are certainly a necessary and good thing. Each new rendering brings something new to light -- like each re-reading does. So, I'm absolutely all for retranslations -- the more the better. I'm just a bit sad, with such a dearth of good translated literature around, that the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize consists mainly of them and isn't introducing us to new, exciting stuff ...

    As for Proust -- I'm still reading him (I'll always be reading him!) -- I'm with Steve that the M/K translations work well.

    I am interested in reading Lydia Davis's trans. of Swann's Way, however, (hideously entitled The Way by Swann's) just because her Blanchot work has been so good.

  6. Mike Mitchell Tuesday 03 June 2008

    As the translator of Rodenbach's 'The Bells of Bruges' = 'Le Carillonneur' I was surprised to see that The Literary Salon says it was already available in English. I haven't tracked one down. Does anyone have details?

  7. PS It's not in the British Library or the ibrary of Congress catalogue.

  8. PS It's not in the British Library or the ibrary of Congress catalogue.

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