Yesterday, the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) announced the shortlists for the 2016 National Translation Awards (NTA) in Poetry and Prose:
Topping the prose list — which was admittedly alphabetical — was Humphrey Davies’ translation of Leg over Leg by Lebanese gadfly, intellect, linguist, traveler, and satirist Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq. The judges write:
Humphrey Davies’ masterful translation of Faris al-Shidyaq’s Leg over Leg is the English-language reader’s first introduction to the work of this foundational figure of Arabic letters. The protagonist leaves his native Lebanon to make a life for himself elsewhere as an itinerant scribe, poet, translator, editor, and author. This is a book about books, about conventions of writing, reading, bookmaking, cultural creation and crossings, bristling with puns and long digressions about the “oddities of language, including its rare words”—a preoccupation that makes Davies’ translation all the more remarkable as a work of literature and scholarship both.
Since an Arabic title took the prize last year — William Hutchins’ translation of Ibrahim al-Koni’s New Waw — it seems impossible that lightning could strike two years in a row. Yet who knows! The other titles on the five-book shortlist:
The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector by Clarice Lispector (Brazil)
Translated from the Portuguese by Katrina Dodson
The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud (Algeria)
Translated from the French by John Cullen
The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov (Bulgaria)
Translated from the Bulgarian by Angela Rodel
Tristano Dies: A Life by Antonio Tabucchi (Italy)
Translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris
The winning translators in the poetry and prose categories will receive a $2,500 cash prize each; the awards will be announced at ALTA’s annual conference, set this year for October 6-9.
(1) Only translate what you like.
(2) Consult the author about everything you don’t understand, and if s/he’s not alive, consult another native speaker who reads widely and intelligently.
(3) Don’t consult native speakers who don’t read widely and intelligently.
(4) Make three drafts, wait a month, and make a fourth.
(5) Don’t hesitate to make changes at any later stage whatever snide comments you may get from editors.
(6-10) Translate nothing till you have a contract for it.
Also today, the Manifesto for the Visibility of Literary Translators is going public.