For the last few years, the National Book Awards has recognized American books in four categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature. But this year there’s a new award category on the block: for fiction and nonfiction books in translation.
The National Book Awards are given by the National Book Foundation, whose mission is “to celebrate the best literature in America, expand its audience and ensure that books have a prominent place in American culture.”
The foundation’s new prize will be awarded to a book’s author and translator jointly. Eligible books in translation must have been translated from a language other than English and published in the United States. Also, the author must currently be alive, so no translations of the classics.
Books in translation aren’t as popular in the United States as in other countries, so I’m glad to see that good translators will start getting recognized at the National Book Awards. This is in addition to current recognition from other organizations’ awards like the PEN Translation Prize and the Man Booker International Prize.
Literary translation is both an art and a science. Literary translators must be good writers as well as good translators in order to do justice to a book’s words. Did you know that famed writers Vladimir Nabokov and Jorge Luis Borges were also well-known literary translators?
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