ALTA Honors Translations of Czech, Chinese Works
Oct. 26, 2010
The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA), which is housed at The University of Texas at Dallas, presented two prestigious awards at its annual conference in Philadelphia on Oct. 21.
Alex Zucker received the 2010 National Translation Award for his translation of Petra Hůlová’s All This Belongs to Me (Northwestern University Press, 2009). The $5,000 prize is given annually to the translator whose work, by virtue of both its quality and significance, has made the most valuable contribution to literary translation.
ALTA also presented the inaugural Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize to Red Pine (Bill Porter) for In Such Hard Times: The Poetry of Wei Ying-wu (Copper Canyon Press, 2009). The $5,000 award, which was established by an anonymous donor, honors the best book-length translation into English of Asian poetry or of source texts from Zen Buddhism.
Zucker, a freelance translator based in the U.S., has translated two novels and numerous short stories, as well as plays, poems and song lyrics. His translation of Czech author Jáchym Topol’s first novel, City Sister Silver, was selected for inclusion in 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.
All This Belongs to Me chronicles the lives of three generations of women in a Mongolian family whose differing points of view reveal complex identities and dramatic secrets beneath the daily rhythms of nomadic existence and the modern realities of living in Mongolia’s capital, Ulaanbaatar.
The final jury for this year’s National Translation Award called All This Belongs to Me “beautifully fluent translation that portrays each character in convincingly idiomatic English, and yet still manages to distinguish the five closely related main characters according to their individual temperaments. The story is compelling on personal and broader, political levels, the characters are deeply human, and their difficult choices are portrayed with great dignity. All in all, this is a book to be savored and treasured.”
“It is truly an honor to receive this award,” Zucker said. “[The book] was a challenge to translate mainly because of its five different narrators — five women, each with her own voice and own style of storytelling. But Hůlová put much of her knowledge of the place, including language, into her book, so another challenge was to do the research — geography, history, customs, religion, construction of yurts, and life on the steppe — required to make the text come alive for the English-speaking reader.”
Lucien Stryk winner Bill Porter — known as Red Pine since his days in Chinese Buddhist monasteries — is an American Zen figure who is famous for over a dozen books of translation. After studying at The University of California and Columbia University, he lived for 22 years in Asia, including four years in a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan. In Such Hard Times brings 175 poems by Wei Ying-wu to English readers for the first time.
“Translation requires such a close collaboration, that Wei soon became my best friend,” Porter said. “I’m so happy I got to know him and am so glad there are others who feel the same way I do about this poet who slipped through the net of celebrity.”
The judges for this year’s Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize praised In Such Hard Times for “bringing out Wei’s apparent simplicity of style, which is particularly important as his poetry is in some ways simpler than the more celebrated poetry of the T’ang. Red Pine’s translation, in simple yet elegant modern English and with thoughtful footnotes, not only makes Wei available to English-speaking readers, but also, potentially, makes him more accessible to many readers in Wei’s native culture today.”
ALTA, which is housed at The University of Texas at Dallas, is a broad-based organization dedicated to promoting literary translation through services to literary translators, forums on the theory and practice of translation, and collaboration with the international literary community. For more information, please visit www.literarytranslators.org.