2014 PEN Translation Prize

Winner

Joanne Turnbull & Nikolai Formozov, Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (New York Review Books)

The $3,000 PEN Translation Prize honors a book-length translation from any language into English.

2014 Judges

Ann Goldstein, Becka McKay, and Katherine Silver

From the Judges' Citation

Autobiography of a Corpse, by the Russian writer Sigizmund Krzhizanovsky (1887—1950), is a collection of thematically and stylistically linked stories written in the Soviet Union in the 1920s and ‘30s but unpublished until the first decade of this century. Fantastical, hallucinatory, and wildly imaginative, the book is rich in linguistic playfulness—part metafiction, part exploration into the farthest reaches and minutest details of reality. In one story, the narrator falls into his lover’s pupil, only to find there reflections of all her previous lovers; in another, a hermit’s prayers temporarily heal all the cracks and seams in the universe.

Joanne Turnbull, in collaboration with Nikolai Formozov, has produced a compellingly readable translation that is also inventive, that improvises when necessary and consistently insinuates a strangeness and beauty of other worlds, both literary and real. Turnbull remains true to an English voice of her own making, while weaving in bright threads of the unfamiliar to push the boundaries of our language.

Turnbull provides helpful information in her extensive endnotes, which elucidate the text without being didactic, editorializing, or intrusive. With her notes and her translation, she effectively offers us Krzhizanovsky’s genius—unrecognized and suppressed during his lifetime—rather than drawing attention to herself and her own considerable resourcefulness and artistry. This is a rare and welcome conjunction of a literary text that allows the art of translation to shine and a translator who has brilliantly met the challenge.

Shortlist

An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman (New York Review Books), Elizabeth & Robert Chandler
Transit by Anna Seghers (New York Review Books), Margot Bettauer Dembo
The African Shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa (Yale University Press), Jeffrey Gray
The Emperor’s Tomb by Joseph Roth (New Directions), Michael Hofmann
Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (New York Review Books), Joanne Turnbull & Nikolai Formozov

 

Longlist

Shantytown by César Aira (New Directions), Chris Andrews
Twists and Turns in the Heart’s Antarctic by Hélène Cixous (Polity), Beverley Bie Brahic
An Armenian Sketchbook by Vasily Grossman (New York Review Books), Elizabeth & Robert Chandler
The Infatuations by Javier Marías (Knopf), Margaret Jull Costa
Transit by Anna Seghers (New York Review Books), Margot Bettauer Dembo
Kafka: The Years of Insight by Reiner Stach (Princeton University Press), Shelley Frisch
The Dinner by Herman Koch (Hogarth), Sam Garrett
The African Shore by Rodrigo Rey Rosa (Yale University Press), Jeffrey Gray
The Emperor’s Tomb by Joseph Roth (New Directions), Michael Hofmann
Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (New York Review Books), Joanne Turnbull & Nikolai Formozov

Past winners

Archibald Colquhoun, Ralph Manheim, Joseph Barnes, Geoffrey Skelton and Adrian Mitchell, Harriet de Onis, Vladimir Markov and Merrill Sparks, W.S. Merwin, Sidney Alexander, Max Hayward, Clara and Richard Winston, J.P. McCullough, Hardie St. Martin and Leonard Mades, Helen R. Lane, Richard Howard, Gregory Rabassa, Adrienne Foulke, Charles Wright, Charles Simic, John E. Woods, Hiroaki sato and Burton Watson, Richard Wilbur, William Weaver, Helen R. Lane, Seamus Heaney, Barbara Bray, Dennis Tedlock, John E. Woods, Madeline Levine and Francine Prose, Matthew Ward, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, David Rosenberg, Thomas Hoisington, Bill Zavatsky and Zack Rogow, Burton Watson, Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh, Arnold Pomerans, Peter Constantine, Michael Hofmann, Richard Sieberth, Tiina Nunnally, R.W. Flint, Margaret Sayers Peden, Tim Wilkinson, Philip Gabriel, Sandra Smith, Margaret Jull Costa, Natasha Wimmer, Michael Henry Heim, Ibrahim Muhawi, Bill Johnston, and Donald O. White.


Click here for additional information, including submission guidelines, for the award.