37th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony

June 25, 2024

Celebrating Excellence in French-to-English Translation

On Tuesday, June 18th, 2024, the French-American Foundation hosted its annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony at The Strand Bookstore’s Rare Book Room in New York City. For nearly four decades, the Translation Prize has worked to elevate translators who make French literature accessible to readers in the United States and provide translators and their craft with greater recognition. The Prize also seeks to increase the visibility of the publishers who bring these important works of French literature to an American audience in translations of exceptional quality. The evening served to celebrate outstanding French-to-English translations that were published in 2023. The winning translators in the fiction and non-fiction categories, who were selected from 10 finalists, received awards totaling $20,000 thanks to the generous support of the Florence Gould Foundation.

After a festive opening cocktail reception, French-American Foundation—United States Chairman Edward C. Wallace welcomed the audience and stressed the importance of acknowledging exceptional translators for the important work that they do. French-American Foundation—United States Program Director Elizabeth McGehee then congratulated all finalists and the Prize winners: in fiction, Frank Wynne, for his translation of The Annual Banquet of the Gravediggers’ Guild by Mathias Énard, published by New Directions Publishing, and in nonfiction, Angela Hunter & Rebecca Wilkin, for their co-translation of Louise Dupin’s Work on Women: Selections by Louise Dupin, published by Oxford University Press. Elizabeth thanked the jury for their dedication and expertise in judging over 90 submissions to this year’s competition. Read more about the winners’ translations here and get to know Frank, Angela and Rebecca through their interviews with the Foundation here.

The audience then had the pleasure of hearing from distinguished keynote speaker Jonathan Galassi, poet, translator, and Chairman and Executive Editor of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. In his keynote presentation and his ensuing Q&A session with juror Kate Deimling, Mr. Galassi emphasized the importance of recognizing translators: “It is a payment in equity for translators to get recognition,” he stated, stressing that translators deserve proper compensation and recognition for their work, which tends to be underappreciated in the industry. “Translation is culture,” said Mr. Galassi, stating that, without it, we would not have access to the greatest cultural treasures – produced outside of our native tongue – of our time. Mr. Galassi also afforded the audience his perspective on emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence, and their impact on the translation world. Ending on an optimistic note, he believes that new technologies can exist without competing with the publishing industry and had the potential to create different, but equally valuable, literary experiences.

Following the keynote segment, juror Tess Lewis presented the award in fiction to Frank Wynne. Tess introduced Frank with remarks co-written by juror Chris Clarke, and commended Frank’s keen grasp of Mathias Énard’s complex syntax and vocabulary. After thanking the Foundation and captivatingly reading an excerpt from his translation, Frank sat down with Tess for a Q&A session. Frank and Tess discussed the challenges Frank faced in translating Enard’s intricate wordplay from French to English, which required not only a grasp on the French language, but an understanding of French connotations, as well. Frank also delved into his decision to translate the novel’s passages in Poitevin-Saintongeais, a language spoken in the Nouvelle Aquitaine region of France, into Scots English, which he felt had a similar relationship to English as Poitevin-Saintongeais had to French.

Juror James Swenson then presented the award in nonfiction to Angela Hunter and Rebecca Wilkin. Angela and Rebecca expressed their gratitude for the Prize, stating that it would not only give greater visibility to translators, but also to the subject of their translation, Louise Dupin, an 18th century French female philosopher who went largely unrecognized by academics for centuries. After reading an excerpt from their translation, Angela and Rebecca took the stage with James for a Q&A session. The two translators shared their journey encountering Dupin and how her work brought them together professionally, as well as the difficulties posed by translating Dupin’s manuscripts, many of which had never been published before. James, Angela and Rebecca also discussed how they incorporated the French philosopher into their own curriculums as university professors and the link between academia and translation.

French-American Foundation—United States President Caroline Naralasetty provided closing remarks, congratulating the finalists and winners once more and thanking everyone for a wonderful evening celebrating the importance of the art of translation.

The French-American Foundation—United States extends sincere thanks to our Board of Directors and the Florence Gould Foundation, whose generous support makes the Translation Prize and ceremony possible. We look forward to celebrating with you again next year!