National Book Critics Circle in US Announces ‘Greg Barrios Book in Translation Prize’

Starting with the 2022 publishing year, the US’s National Book Critics Circle is launching a new “Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize” to honor the best book of any genre translated into English and published in the United States.

The announcement was made yesterday.

According to the news release, “This prize, ratified by the NBCC board at its June meeting, seeks to highlight the artistic merit of literature in translation and recognize translators’ valuable work, which expands and enriches American literary culture by bringing world literature to English-language readers.”

The prize will be open to translations of books authored by any writer, living or deceased. They will also consider new translations of previously translated books. 

The winner of the new prize will be announced each March, with other NBCC winners, “awarded to both the author and translator, and the NBCC will invite both translator and author on stage to receive their award and give speeches.” Unless, naturally, the author is deceased.

The prize is named after NBCC board member Gregg Barrios, a poet, playwright and book critic who passed away in August at age 80. 

NBCC President David Varno said, in a prepared release:

There have been talks within the NBCC about adding a prize for translated literature for years, and I am so pleased we have found a way to make it work. This will not only ensure that the NBCC will honor the best work in translation each year, but it will offer a new opportunity for all dues-paying members of the organization to nominate books and participate in prize deliberations.

Arabic-English translator and critic Kevin Blankinship, writing on Twitter, said, “As a member of @bookcritics I’m thrilled to be working on the prize committee along with @adalva, @shelfrisch, @tarawandam, @janeciab and other talented authors, translators and reviewers. Please reach out with any questions!”

As Blankinship added over email, “this is a game changer for classicists — a new Beowulf or Iliad would count, as would any premodern title in any language tradition.” 

Publishers will be able to submit books for consideration via the Submissions Portal starting in early 2022.