June 15, 2022

35th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony


On Wednesday, June 15, 2022, the French-American Foundation hosted its annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony at the Century Association in New York City. For 35 years, the Translation Prize has served to promote French literature in the United States and provide translators and their craft with greater visibility and recognition.

The evening celebrated exceptional French-to-English translations that were published in the 2021 calendar year, and the winning translators in the fiction and non-fiction categories received awards totaling $20,000, generously funded by the Florence Gould Foundation. A particularly interesting fact that stood out about this year’s award, brought to our attention by finalist Sandra Smith (and past winner in 2007), was that, for the first time in the history of the Translation Prize, all ten finalists were women, and nine out of the ten books translated were originally written by women. See the finalist shortlist here.

After an opening cocktail, French-American Foundation Chairman, Allan M. Chapin, provided welcome remarks and reflected on the 35 year legacy of the Translation Prize in partnership with the Florence Gould Foundation. He also thanked and celebrated the meticulous and dedicated jury members who made this year’s selections. FAF President, Caroline Naralasetty, also welcomed guests and spoke about the critical role that translators play in promoting cultural exchange and understanding.

Moderator Esther Allen (Professor, CUNY & Co-Founder, PEN World Voices Festival) introduced special guest Thierry Kehou (Director of Programs and Partnerships, Poets & Writers). Esther and Thierry discussed Thierry’s work and the influence that his multi-cultural, multi-lingual upbringing continues to have on his approach to writing and translation. Thierry also spoke about co-founding Lampblack, a non-profit supporting Black writers and the advancement of Black literature. After their discussion, jurors then presented fiction and nonfiction winners with their prizes, which were each followed by the translator’s reading of an excerpt from their works.

Juror Alyson Waters introduced winner Lara Vergnaud and presented her with the prize in fiction for her translation of Life Sciences by Joy Sorman (Restless Books). Lara shared remarks with the audience and engaged in a lively discussion with Alyson. The two spoke about the challenging nature of translation and Lara’s natural connection to Joy Sorman’s work and voice. Juror James Swenson then introduced non-fiction co-winner Susan Emanuel, who translated two works: The Belle Époque by Dominique Kalifa (Columbia University Press) and Rescue, Relief, and Resistance: The Jewish Labor Committee’s Anti-Nazi Operations, 1934-1945 by Catherine Collomp (Wayne State University Press). Susan shared her personal connection to the works and authors and reflected on the impact these connections had on her translating process. Juror Tess Lewis introduced non-fiction co-winner Sophie R. Lewis, who translated In the Eyes of the Wild by Nastassja Martin (New York Review Books). Sophie shared with the audience how she approached translating this novel and contemplated her intuitive ability to capture the author’s sense of time. Sophie also reflected on how completing this work during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown allowed her the ability to escape into the world of the novel. Learn more about this year’s winners.

FAF Programs and Communications Associate and Translations Prize organizer, Elizabeth McGehee, provided closing remarks and shared a reflection by Hoyt Rogers, 2021 non-fiction prize winner, when asked last year about the importance of the program: “This prize calls attention to an often-neglected aspect of literature, translation; without it, English-speakers would have no access to most of the greatest treasures of the world’s literary heritage. In my case, the recognition inspires me to continue translating, now that my efforts thus far have received this welcome attention.”

The Foundation extends sincere thanks to all who make the Translation Prize and ceremony possible, and looks forward to celebrating with you again next year!