The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Nov 2, 2013

Prizewinners Alpha

The European Union, besides subsidising its farmers to the tune of billions and ruin the livelihoods of farmers in the rest of the planet, also likes to promote a bit of art and culture. To this end, there is the European Union Prize for Literature. It's as ecumenical as you might like - every year, a dozen or so countries in the EU are chosen to compete for the award, national juries in each country create a shortlist, and these juries then select a winner to represent their country. Over a period of three years, every country in the EU will have participated and won a prize. (It's a bit like primary school competitions where every kid eventually wins. In this case, the kid is the country.) There's no cross-country competition, but that doesn't surprise me, because what's the likelihood that a Latvian jury will be able to judge a Portuguese work, or vice-versa? The winners get paid a little sum (as prizes go), but are also offered support for translation and promotion. 

Now, I know that the Germans translate almost everything. The English? Not so much. Would the EU's support help to produce English translations? Am I too optimistic? Yes, I am.

So here is the list of winners from 2009, the first year the prizes were awarded:
  1. Austria: Paulus Hochgatterer, Die Suesse des Lebens
  2. Croatia: Mila Pavićević, Djevojčica od leda i druge bajke
  3. France: Emmanuelle Pagano, Les Adolescents troglodytes
  4. Hungary: Szécsi Noémi, Kommunista Monte Cristo
  5. Ireland: Karen Gillece, Longshore Drift
  6. Italy: Daniele Del Giudice, Orizzonte mobile
  7. Lithuania: Laura Sintija Cerniauskaité, Kvėpavimas ¡ marmurą
  8. Norway: Carl Frode Tiller, Innsirkling
  9. Poland: Jacek Dukaj, Lód
  10. Portugal: Dulce Maria Cardoso, Os Meus Sentimentos
  11. Slovakia: Pavol Rankov, Stalo sa prvého septembra (alebo inokedy)
  12. Sweden: Helena Henschen, I skuggan av ett brott
Of these, Paulus Hochgatterer's the only one I've heard of, and that's because I'm reading a more recent book of his. I did a bit of digging to see if any of the others has been published in English.

As of September 2011, at least, Mila Pavićević's book (Ice girl and other fairy tales) has not been translated into English. But you can see a sample chapter translated by Nikola Ðuretić is available at this link.

The rights to Emmanuelle Pagano's The Cave teenagers have been sold to various publishers (Germany, Bulgaria, Spain, Turkey, Hungary, Czech), but - as of September 2011 - to none in the English-speaking world. A sample translation into English from this book by Liam Hayes is available here.

Szécsi Noémi's Communist Monte Cristo is not available in English translation (but is in Serbia and Macedonia!). Check out a sample piece by David Robert Evans here. Interestingly, another of her works, The Finno-Ugrian Vampire, is available! Woo-hoo!

Daniele De Giudice's Movable Horizon is unavailable in English translation (sample by Anne Milano Appel here) but other books are, e.g. Take-Off.

Laura Sintija Cerniauskaité's Breathing into Marble is available in Italian, but not in English. Jūra Avižienis has produced this sample translation. On the other hand, several of her works are available in anthologies of Baltic literature or dramaturgy, which is encouraging.

Carl Frode Tiller's Encircling will be available in English on January 1, 2015. W00t, w00t. Of course, French, Danish and German editions are already around. Drat you, France, Denmark and Germany.

Jacek Dukaj's Ice is not available in English translation (here is a sample by Stanley Bill). I can't find any of his works in English, either.

Dulce Maria Cardoso's Os Meus Sentimentos does not even have an English sample translation, let alone English publishers clamouring to publish it. The French, Croatians, Italians and the Dutch have their own editions available.

Pavol Rankov's It Happened on September the First (or whenever) is unavailable in English translation (sample by Heather Trebaticka here); in fact, I've been unable to find any of his works published in English.

And, finally, Helena Henschen's The Shadow of a Crime is also not available in English (but see sample by Carla Wiberg).

Now, I can't blame the EU for not promoting these books - clearly there is enough interest in other countries, even countries so small that if a publisher sells a few hundred books it would be considered a coup. What I find puzzling is that even with EU aid, publishers in the English world seem uninterested in commissioning or printing translated editions. What is with this infernal insularity?

(I was hoping that the authors from the 2009 win list would have by now been translated into English. I wonder what the situation is with the later winners. Perhaps they have been more successful? I'll look into them in later posts.)


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