According to a Guardian story by John Ezard:

The Man Booker prize organisation yesterday unveiled a £15,000 special translation award as part of its international fiction prize, whose first winner is due to be announced early next month.
The move has been inspired partly by the judges arriving at a final shortlist in which 10 of the 17 authors wrote in other languages. The winning author would have got £60,000, with nothing, until now, for the translator.
“The judges became increasingly aware of the huge role translators play,” said their chairman, John Carey.
Among those in line for the inaugural prize are the translators of Gabriel García Márquez, Günter Grass, Milan Kundera, Stanislaw Lem, Naguib Mahfouz, Tomas Eloy Martínez and Kenzaburo Oe. The winning author decides which translator gets the prize, with discretion to split it among several translators.

About time, say I. But which translator’s picture did they use to illustrate the story? Why, none of them, of course; they ran a photo of Gabriel García Márquez! In fact, they didn’t even name any of the translators. Calling Rodney Dangerfield…
(Via Naked Translations.)


  1. Do those who translate their own works, like João Ubaldo Ribeiro, get both?

  2. I’m still a bit shocked that prizes even get given out to translated books by people who cannot read the originals.
    Wouldn’t it be better if book-prize judges had to restrict their shortlists to books written in languages all the judges could speak?

  3. Fine, if you want prizes to be given only to books written in English (and maybe, in some years, French).

  4. Michael Farris says

    I’m sure Swedish authors would welcome the rule Mark proposed …

  5. That’s fantastic news for translators!
    Lem’s translator is Michael Kandel. He should certainly win something… Garcia Marquez’s is probably G. Rabassa. I don’t know the others offhand.
    I’ll spread the word on literary translation lists!

  6. Andrew Dunbar says

    I seem to recall reading on Languagehat some time ago that Lem was retranslated into English from the French translation. Here it is:
    As for GGM, he has had several translators: J.S Bernstein, Gregory Rabassa, Randolph Hogan, and Edith Grossman. Rabassa and Grossman seem to be the more famous.

  7. Points taken, Steve & Michael!
    I know that it would restrict the languages of books awarded prizes – but then it might make the majority of people think about that a bit, no?
    Instead of letting them think that reading a book in translation is the same as in the original.
    It’s a choice between two prejudices: the second one worries me more, and helps us forget how few languages we learn in the English-speaking world.
    On the other side, I think authors in small countries have some advantages to balance them writing in languages book judges don’t read.
    1. Less competition, so they can get published and heard more easily as local heroes.
    2. A lively sideline translating books from the outer world into their own language.
    In Britain, I’ve never met anyone who’s is a translator or even anyone who knows one. In communities like Latvia or Iceland everyone and their dog can earn some weekend money translating some sci-fi or romance from the outside world.
    Lose some, win some.

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