Since 1990 The Independent newspaper has made an annual award for contemporary literature in translation. It recognises the skill of both the foreign-language author and the translator who has sweated over how to render the original language into English.
This year’s recipient of the dual award is Jenny Erpenbeck’s “The End of Days” which was originally written in German, and was translated into English by Susan Bernofsky. Author and translator shared a prize of £10,000.
Antonia Byatt, Director, Literature, Arts Council England, praised both prize winners, saying “Jenny Erpenbeck is a worthy winner of this year’s Prize and her lucid prose is matched by Susan Bernofsky’s wonderful translation, which manages to capture the subtlest turns in thought and language”. She also praised the Independent for “bringing such a rich array of translated fiction to the attention of UK readers”.
This prize raises 2 key points about the importance of good translation; first that without Bernofsky’s translation most UK readers would be unable to enjoy Erpenbeck’s work, so translation is serving its primary function of enabling communication between speakers of different languages. However it is the quality of the translation in capturing the author’s work that allows native English speakers to fully appreciate the author’s work. A poor translation would not be so enjoyable, and English readers would not understand the power of the original German without a translation that illustrates the words, tone and emotions of the author.
The importance of the translator was summed up by The Independent in describing the aim of the prize as “celebrating both the finest global fiction and the precious skills of the translators who let us enjoy it”. Translators everywhere can sit back and enjoy a little bit of reflected glory and recognition for their skills that often goes unnoticed, thanks to this prize!
If you too appreciate that a translator’s skills can make the words on your website and in your materials come alive then contact a translation agency that really knows how to make that happen! Contact us with more details of who you’d like to reach out to and we’ll make your words resonate in dozens of languages!