Past Winners

The following is a comprehensive list of past recipients of the French-American Foundation and Florence Gould Foundation Translation Prize. Descriptions courtesy of the publishers.


36th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2023)

FICTION

Juliet Sutcliffe, for her translation of The Music Game by Stéfanie Clermont (Biblioasis)

Friends since grade school, Céline, Julie, and Sabrina come of age at the start of a new millennium, supporting each other and drifting apart as their lives pull them in different directions. But when their friend dies by suicide in the abandoned city lot where they once gathered, they must carry on in the world that left him behind—one they once dreamed they would change for the better. […] An ode to friendship and the ties that bind us together, Stéfanie Clermont’s award-winning The Music Game confronts the violence of the modern world and pays homage to those who work in the hope and faith that it can still be made a better place.

NONFICTION

Kieran Aarons and Cédrine Michel, for their co-translation of Self Defense: A Philosophy of Violence by Elsa Dorlin (Verso Books)

Is violent self-defense ethical? In the history of colonialism, racism, sexism, capitalism, there has long been a dividing line between bodies “worthy of defending” and those who have been disarmed and rendered defenseless. […] Here, philosopher Elsa Dorlin looks across the global history of the left – from slave revolts to the knitting women of the French Revolution and British suffragists’ training in ju-jitsu, from the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising to the Black Panther Party, from queer neighborhood patrols to Black Lives Matter – to trace the politics, philosophy, and ethics of self defense. In this history she finds a “martial ethics of the self”: a practice in which violent self defense is the only means for the oppressed to ensure survival and to build a liveable future.


35th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2022)

FICTION

Lara Vergnaud, for her translation of Life Sciences by Joy Sorman (Restless Books)

Joy Sorman’s Life Sciences takes an overtly political premise—the medical establishment’s inability or perhaps refusal to take seriously the physical struggles of women—and transforms it into a surreal and knife-deep work of fiction that asks: What pain can we abide, and what pain must we fight back against, even if the fight hurts more than the disease itself?… Translated by Lara Vergnaud into prose that is both deceptively simple and playfully archaic, Sorman’s story [is] among the first to tackle illness as metaphor, as birthright and as feminist rebellion…. Sorman’s alternative history of female malady offers both a horrific dose of truth and a comforting alternative to the stories sick women have told ourselves since time began.

NONFICTION

The nonfiction prize was split between two winners.

Susan Emanuel, for both her translation of The Belle Époque by Dominique Kalifa (Columbia University Press)

The years before the First World War have long been romanticized as a zenith of French culture—the “Belle Époque.” The era is seen as the height of a lost way of life that remains emblematic of what it means to be French. […] This book traces the making—and the imagining—of the Belle Époque to reveal how and why it became a cultural myth. Dominique Kalifa lifts the veil on a period shrouded in nostalgia, explaining the century-long need to continuously reinvent and even sanctify this moment. He sifts through images handed down in memoirs and reminiscences, literature and film, art and history to explore the many facets of the era, including its worldwide reception. The Belle Époque was born in France, but it quickly went global as other countries adopted the concept to write their own histories. In shedding light on how the Belle Époque has been celebrated and reimagined, Kalifa also offers a nuanced meditation on time, history, and memory.

and her translation of Rescue, Relief, and Resistance: The Jewish Labor Committee’s Anti-Nazi Operations, 1934–1945 by Catherine Collomp (Wayne State University Press)

Rescue, Relief, and Resistance: The Jewish Labor Committee’s Anti-Nazi Operations, 1934–1945 is the English translation of Catherine Collomp’s award-winning book on the Jewish Labor Committee (JLC). Formed in New York City in 1934 by the leaders of the Jewish Labor Movement, the JLC came to the forefront of American labor’s reaction to Nazism and antisemitism. Situated at the crossroads of several fields of inquiry—Jewish history, immigration and exile studies, American and international labor history, World War II in France and in Poland—the history of the JLC is by nature transnational. It brings to the fore the strength of ties between the Yiddish-speaking Jewish worlds across the globe.

Sophie R. Lewis, for her translation of In the Eye of the Wild by Nastassja Martin (New York Review Books)

In the Eye of the Wild begins with an account of the French anthropologist Nastassja Martin’s near fatal run-in with a Kamchatka bear in the mountains of Siberia. Martin’s professional interest is animism; she addresses philosophical questions about the relation of humankind to nature, and in her work she seeks to partake as fully as she can in the lives of the indigenous peoples she studies. Her violent encounter with the bear, however, brings her face-to-face with something entirely beyond her ken—the untamed, the nonhuman, the animal, the wild. In the course of that encounter something in the balance of her world shifts. A change takes place that she must somehow reckon with. […] In the Eye of the Wild is a fascinating, mind-altering book about terror, pain, endurance, and self-transformation, comparable in its intensity of perception and originality of style to J. A. Baker’s classic The Peregrine. Here Nastassja Martin takes us to the farthest limits of human being.


34th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2021)

FICTION

Chris Andrews, for his translation of Our Riches by Kaouther Adimi (New Directions Publishing)

Our Riches celebrates quixotic devotion and the love of books in the person of Edmond Charlot, who at the age of twenty founded Les Vraies Richesses (Our True Wealth), the famous Algerian bookstore/publishing house/lending library. […] [It] interweaves Charlot’s story with that of another twenty-year-old, Ryad (dispatched in 2017 to empty the old shop and repaint it). Ryad’s no booklover, but old Abdallah, the bookshop’s self-appointed, early illiterate guardian, opens the young man’s mind. Cutting brilliantly from Charlot to Ryad, from the 1930s to current times, from WWII to the bloody 1961 Free Algeria demonstrations in Paris, Adimi delicately packs a monumental history of intense political drama into her swift and poignant novel. But most of all, it’s a hymn to the book and to the love of books.

NONFICTION

Hoyt Rogers, for his translation of Rome, 1630: The Horizon of the Early Baroque, Followed by Five Essays on Seventeenth-Century Art by Yves Bonnefoy (Seagull Books, University of Chicago Press)

Bernini, Poussin, Velázquez, Cortona, Borromini, Valentin: the list could go on and on. In 1630, despite their signal differences, the finest artists of the European Baroque converged on Rome, where Caravaggio was still a lingering influence. In response to the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church turned to masters such as these to celebrate the glories of heaven, while other patrons granted them commissions for secular works. […] In the title study of this book, Yves Bonnefoy focuses on the pivotal year in the development of the Baroque style. Richly illustrated, his Rome, 1630 reveals how a pan-European movement was born from the achievements of the Italian and foreign artists who congregated in the city during that seminal period.



33rd Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2020)

FICTION

Alyson Waters, for her translation of A King Alone by Jean Giono (New York Review Books)

A King Alone is set in a remote Alpine village that is cut off from the world by rugged mountains and by long months when the ground is covered with snow and the heavens with cloud. One such winter, villagers begin mysteriously to disappear. Soon the village is paralyzed by terror, which gives way to relief and eager anticipation when the outsider Langlois arrives to investigate. What he discovers, however, will leave no one reassured, and his reappearance in the village a few years later, now assigned the task of guarding it from wolves, awakens those troubling memories. A man of few words, a regal manner, and military efficiency, Langlois baffles and fascinates the villagers, whose different responses to him shape Jean Giono’s increasingly charged narrative. This novel about a tiny community at the dangerous edge of things and a man of law who is a man alone could be described as a metaphysical Western. It unfolds with the uncanny inevitability and disturbing intensity of a dream.

NONFICTION

Michael Loriaux and Jacob Levi, for their co-translation of Murderous Consent: on the Accommodation of Violent Death by Marc Crépon (Fordham University Press)

Murderous Consent details our implication in violence we do not directly inflict but in which we are structurally complicit: famines, civil wars, political repression in far-away places, and war, as it’s classically understood. Marc Crépon insists on a bond between ethics and politics and attributes violence to our treatment of the two as separate spheres. We repeatedly resist the call to responsibility, as expressed by the appeal—by peoples across the world—for the care and attention that their vulnerability enjoins. Pushing against the limits of liberal rationalism, Crépon calls for a more radical understanding of interpersonal responsibility. Not just a work of philosophy but an engagement with life as it’s lived, Murderous Consent works to redefine our global obligations, articulating anew what humanitarianism demands and what an ethically grounded political resistance might mean.


32nd Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2019)

FICTION

The fiction prize was split between two winners.

Linda Coverdale, for her translation of Slave Old Man by Patrick Chamoiseau (The New Press)

From one of the most innovative and subversive novelists writing in French, a “writer of exceptional and original gifts” (The New York Times), whose Texaco won the Prix Goncourt and has been translated into fourteen languages, Patrick Chamoiseau’s Slave Old Man is a gripping, profoundly unsettling story of an elderly slave’s daring escape into the wild from a plantation in Martinique, with his master and a fearsome hound on his heels. Chamoiseau’s exquisitely rendered new novel is an adventure for all time, one that fearlessly portrays the demonic cruelties of the slave trade and its human costs in vivid, sometimes hallucinatory prose. Offering a loving and mischievous tribute to the Creole culture of early nineteenth-century Martinique and brilliantly translated by Linda Coverdale, this novel takes us on a unique and moving journey into the heart of Caribbean history.

Chris Clarke, for his translation of Imaginary Lives by Marcel Schwob (Wakefield Press)

Imaginary Lives remains, over 120 years since its original publication in French, one of the secret keys to modern literature: under-recognized, yet a decisive influence on such writers as Apollinaire, Borges, Jarry and Artaud, and more contemporary authors such as Roberto Bolaño and Jean Echenoz. Drawing from historical influences such as Plutarch and Diogenes Laërtius, and authors more contemporary to him such as Thomas De Quincey and Walter Pater, Schwob established the genre of fictional biography with this collection: a form of narrative that championed the specificity of the individual over the generality of history, and the memorable detail of a vice over the forgettable banality of a virtue. These 22 portraits present figures drawn from the margins of history, from Empedocles the “Supposed God” and Clodia the “Licentious Matron” to the pirate Captain Kidd and the Scottish murderers Messrs. Burke and Hare.

NONFICTION

Malcolm DeBevoise, for his translation of Good Government by Pierre Rosanvallon (Harvard University Press)

Few would disagree that Western democracies are experiencing a crisis of representation. In Good Government, Pierre Rosanvallon examines the long history of the alternative to which the public has gravitated: the empowered executive. Rosanvallon argues that, faced with everyday ineptitude in governance, people become attracted to strong leaders and bold executive action. If these fail, they too often want even stronger personal leadership. Whereas nineteenth-century liberals and reformers longed for parliamentary sovereignty, nowadays few contest the “imperial presidency.” Rosanvallon traces this history from the Weimar Republic to Charles De Gaulle’s “exceptional” presidency to the Bush–Cheney concentration of executive power. Europeans rebelling against the technocratic EU and Americans fed up with the “administrative state” have turned to charismatic figures, from Donald Trump to Viktor Orbán, who tout personal strength as their greatest asset. This is not just a right-wing phenomenon, though, as liberal contentment with Obama’s drone war demonstrates.


31st Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2018)

FICTION

The fiction prize was split between two winners.

Paul Eprile, for his translation of Melville: A Novel by Jean Giono (New York Review Books)

In the fall of 1849, Herman Melville traveled to London to deliver his novel White-Jacket to his publisher. On his return to America, Melville would write Moby-Dick. Melville: A Novel imagines what happened in between: the adventurous writer fleeing London for the country, wrestling with an angel, falling in love with an Irish nationalist, and, finally, meeting the angel’s challenge—to express man’s fate by writing the novel that would become his masterpiece.

Eighty years after it appeared in English, Moby-Dick was translated into French for the first time by the Provençal novelist Jean Giono and his friend Lucien Jacques. The publisher persuaded Giono to write a preface, granting him unusual latitude. The result was this literary essai, Melville: A Novel—part biography, part philosophical rumination, part romance, part unfettered fantasy. Paul Eprile’s expressive translation of this intimate homage brings the exchange full circle.

Howard Curtis, for his translation of The Principle by Jérôme Ferrari (Europa Editions)

Beguiled by the figure of German physicist Werner Heisenberg, who disrupted the assumptions of quantum mechanics with his notorious Uncertainty Principle, earning him the Nobel Prize in physics in 1932, a young, disenchanted philosopher attempts to right his own intellectual and emotional course and take the measure of the evil at work in the contemporary world. In this critically acclaimed novel, Jérôme Ferrari takes stock of European culture’s failings during the 20th century and inserts their implications into a compelling vision of the contemporary world. His story is one of eternal returns, of a perpetual fall of Icarus—the inevitably compromised meeting between a man’s soul and the mysterious beauty of the world.

NONFICTION

The nonfiction prize was split between two winners.

Samuel E. Martin, for his translation of Bark by Georges-Didi Huberman (MIT Press)

On a visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, Georges Didi-Huberman tears three pieces of bark from birch trees on the edge of the site. Looking at these pieces after his return home, he sees them as letters, a flood, a path, time, memory, flesh. The bark serves as a springboard to Didi-Huberman’s meditations on his visit, recorded in this spare, poetic, and powerful book. Bark is a personal account, drawing not on the theoretical apparatus of scholarship but on Didi-Huberman’s own history, memory, and knowledge.

Alison L. Strayer, for her translation of The Years by Annie Ernaux (Seven Stories Press)

The Years is a personal narrative from Annie Ernaux of the period 1941 to 2006 told through the lens of memory, impressions past and present—even projections into the future—photos, books, songs, radio, television and decades of advertising, headlines, contrasted with intimate conflicts and writing notes from six decades of diaries. Local dialect, words of the times, slogans, brands and names for the ever-proliferating objects, are given voice here. The voice we recognize as the author’s continually dissolves and re-emerges. Ernaux makes the passage of time palpable. Time itself, inexorable, narrates its own course, consigning all other narrators to anonymity. A new kind of autobiography emerges, at once subjective and impersonal, private and collective. On its 2008 publication in France, The Years came as a surprise. Though Ernaux had for years been hailed as a beloved, bestselling and award-winning author, The Years was in many ways a departure: both an intimate memoir “written” by entire generations, and a story of generations telling a very personal story. Like the generation before hers, the narrator eschews the “I” for the “we” (or “they,” or “one”) as if collective life were inextricably intertwined with a private life that in her parents’ generation ceased to exist. She writes of her parents’ generation (and could be writing of her own book): “From a common fund of hunger and fear, everything was told in the ‘we’ and impersonal pronouns.”


30th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2017)

FICTION

The Heart (2016)

Sam Taylor, for his translation of The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

Just before dawn on a Sunday morning, three teenage boys go surfing. While driving home exhausted, the boys are involved in a fatal car accident on a deserted road. Two of the boys are wearing seat belts; one goes through the windshield. The doctors declare him brain-dead shortly after arriving at the hospital, but his heart is still beating. The Heart takes place over the twenty-four hours surrounding the resulting heart transplant, as life is taken from a young man and given to a woman close to death. In gorgeous, ruminative prose, it examines the deepest feelings of everyone involved as they navigate decisions of life and death. As stylistically audacious as it is emotionally explosive, The Heart mesmerized readers in France, where it has been hailed as the breakthrough work of a new literary star.

Read an Interview with Sam Taylor

NONFICTION

The nonfiction prize was split between two winners.

The French Resistance (2016)Jane Marie Todd, for her translation of The French Resistance by Olivier Wieviorka (Harvard University Press)

Olivier Wieviorka presents a comprehensive history of the French Resistance, synthesizing its social, political, and military aspects to offer fresh insights into its operation. Detailing the Resistance from the inside out, he reveals not one organization but many interlocking groups often at odds over goals, methods, and leadership. He debunks lingering myths, including the idea that the Resistance sprang up in response to the exhortations of de Gaulle’s Free French government-in-exile. […] Wieviorka shatters the conventional image of a united resistance with no interest in political power. But setting the record straight does not tarnish the legacy of its fighters, who braved Nazism without blinking.

Read an Interview with Jane Marie Todd

Jean Cocteau (2016)Lauren Elkin and Charlotte Mandell, for their co-translation of Jean Cocteau: A Life by Claude Arnaud (Yale University Press)

Unevenly respected, easily hated, almost always suspected of being inferior to his reputation, Jean Cocteau has often been thought of as a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. In this landmark biography, Claude Arnaud thoroughly contests this characterization, as he celebrates Cocteau’s “fragile genius—a combination almost unlivable in art” but in his case so fertile. Arnaud narrates the life of this legendary French novelist, poet, playwright, director, filmmaker, and designer who, as a young man, pretended to be a sort of a god, but who died as a humble and exhausted craftsman. His moving and compassionate account examines the nature of Cocteau’s chameleon-like genius, his romantic attachments, his controversial politics, and his intimate involvement with many of the century’s leading artistic lights, including Picasso, Proust, Hemingway, Stravinsky, and Tennessee Williams. Already published to great critical acclaim in France, Arnaud’s penetrating and deeply researched work reveals a uniquely gifted artist while offering a magnificent cultural history of the twentieth century.

Read an Interview with Lauren Elkin and Charlotte Mandell


29th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2016)

FICTION

Christine Donougher, for her translation of Les Misérables by Victor Hugo (Penguin Classics / Penguin Random House)

The subject of the world’s longest-running musical and the award-winning film, Les Misérablesis a genuine literary treasure. Victor Hugo’s tale of injustice, heroism, and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him, and has been a perennial favorite since it first appeared over 150 years ago. This exciting new translation with Jillian Tamaki’s brilliant cover art will be a gift both to readers who have already fallen for its timeless story and to new readers discovering it for the first time.

NONFICTION

The nonfiction prize was split between two winners.

Malcolm DeBevoise, for his translation of Birth of a Theorem by Cédric Villani (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

In 2010, the French mathematician Cédric Villani received the Fields Medal, the most coveted prize in mathematics, in recognition of a proof that he devised with his close collaborator Clément Mouhot to explain one of the most surprising theories in classical physics. Birth of a Theorem is Villani’s own account of the years leading up to the award. It invites readers inside the mind of a great mathematician as he wrestles with the most important work of his career. […] In mathematics, as in any creative work, it is the thinker’s whole life that propels discovery—and with Birth of a Theorem, Cédric Villani welcomes you into his.

Steven Rendall, for his translation of Bonaparte: 1769-1802 by Patrice Gueniffey (Harvard University Press)

Patrice Gueniffey is the leading French historian of the Revolutionary and Napoleonic age. This book, hailed as a masterwork on its publication in France, takes up the epic narrative at the heart of this turbulent period: the life of Napoleon himself, the man who—in Madame de Staël’s words—made the rest of “the human race anonymous.” Gueniffey follows Bonaparte from his obscure boyhood in Corsica, to his meteoric rise during the Italian and Egyptian campaigns of the Revolutionary wars, to his proclamation as Consul for Life in 1802. Bonaparte is the story of how Napoleon became Napoleon. A future volume will trace his career as emperor.

Learn more about the 29th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony


28th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2015)

FICTION

Mad and Bad (2014)Donald Nicholson-Smith, for his translation of The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette (New York Review Books)

Michel Hartog, a sometime architect, is a powerful businessman and famous philanthropist whose immense fortune has just grown that much greater following the death of his brother in an accident. Peter is his orphaned nephew—a spoiled brat. Julie is in an insane asylum. Thompson is a hired gunman with a serious ulcer. Michel hires Julie to look after Peter. And he hires Thompson to kill them. Julie and Peter escape. Thompson pursues. Bullets fly. Bodies accumulate. The craziness is just getting started. Like Jean-Patrick Manchette’s celebrated FataleThe Mad and the Bad is a clear-eyed, cold-blooded, pitch-perfect work of creative destruction.

NONFICTION

Dark Years (2014)David Ball, for his translation of Diary of the Dark Years, 1940-1944 by Jean Guéhenno (Oxford University Press)

Jean Guéhenno’s Diary of the Dark Years, 1940-1945 is the most oft-quoted piece of testimony on life in occupied France. A sharply observed record of day-to-day life under Nazi rule in Paris and a bitter commentary on literary life in those years, it has also been called “a remarkable essay on courage and cowardice” (Caroline Moorehead, Wall Street Journal). Here, David Ball provides not only the first English-translation of this important historical document, but also the first ever annotated, corrected edition. […] Complete with meticulous notes and a biographical index, Ball’s edition of Guéhenno’s epic diary offers readers a deeper understanding not only of the diarist’s cultural allusions, but also of the dramatic, historic events through which he lived.

Learn more about the 28th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony


27th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2014)

FICTION

Electrico W (2013)Adriana Hunter, for her translation of Eléctrico W by Hervé Le Tellier (Other Press)

By the celebrated Oulipo writer, this brilliant and witty novel set in Lisbon explores love, relationships, and the strange balance between literature and life. Journalist, writer, and translator Vincent Balmer moves to Lisbon to escape a failing affair. During his first assignment there, he teams up with Antonio — a photographer who has just returned to the city after a ten-year absence — to report for a French newspaper on an infamous serial killer’s trial. Eléctrico W recounts their nine days together and the adventures that proliferate to form a constellation of successive ephemeral connections and relationships.

Read an Interview with Adriana Hunter

NONFICTION

Falling Sky (2013)Alison Dundy and Nicholas Elliott, for their co-translation of The Falling Sky by Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert (Harvard University Press)

The Falling Sky is a remarkable first-person account of the life story and cosmo-ecological thought of Davi Kopenawa, shaman and spokesman for the Yanomami of the Brazilian Amazon. Representing a people whose very existence is in jeopardy, Davi Kopenawa paints an unforgettable picture of Yanomami culture, past and present, in the heart of the rainforest — a world where ancient indigenous knowledge and shamanic traditions cope with the global geopolitics of an insatiable natural resources-extraction industry. Bruce Albert, a close friend since the 1970s, superbly captures Kopenawa’s intense, poetic voice.

Read an Interview with Alison Dundy

Learn more about the 27th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony


26th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2013)

FICTION

Prehistoric Times (2012)

Alyson Waters, for her translation of Prehistoric Times by Eric Chevillard (Archipelago Books)

The narrator of Prehistoric Times might easily be taken for an inhabitant of Beckett’s world: a dreamer who in his savage and deductive folly tries to modify reality. The writing, with its burlesque variations, accelerations, and ruptures, takes us into a frightening and jubilant delirium, where the message is in the medium and digression gets straight to the point. In an entirely original voice, Eric Chevillard asks looming and luminous questions about who we are, the path we’ve been traveling, and where we might be going—or not.

NONFICTION

The Metamorphosis of KinshipNora Scott, for her translation of The Metamorphoses of Kinship by Maurice Godelier (Verso Books)

With marriage in decline, divorce on the rise and the demise of the nuclear family, it is clear that the structures of kinship in the modern West are in a state of flux. In The Metamorphoses of Kinship, the world-renowned anthropologist Maurice Godelier contextualises these developments, surveying the accumulated experience of humanity with regard to such phenomena as the organisation of lines of descent, sexuality and sexual prohibitions. In parallel, Godelier studies the evolution of Western conjugal and familial traditions from their roots in the nineteenth century to the present. The conclusion he draws is that it is never the case that a man and a woman are sufficient on their own to raise a child, and nowhere are relations of kinship or the family the keystone of society.

Learn more about the 26th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony


25th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2012)

FICTION

Marina Harss, for her translation of The Mirador: Dreamed Memories of Irène Némirovsky by Her Daughter by Elisabeth Gille (New York Review Books)

Élisabeth Gille was only five when the Gestapo arrested her mother, and she grew up remembering next to nothing of her. Her mother was a figure, a name, Irène Némirovsky, a once popular novelist, a Russian émigré from an immensely rich family, a Jew who didn’t consider herself one and who even contributed to collaborationist periodicals, and a woman who died in Auschwitz because she was a Jew. To her daughter she was a tragic enigma and a stranger. It was to come to terms with that stranger that Gille wrote, in The Mirador, her mother’s memoirs. […] Written a decade before the publication of Suite Française made Irène Némirovsky famous once more (something Gille did not live to see),The Mirador is a haunted and a haunting book, an unflinching reckoning with the tragic past, and a triumph not only of the imagination but of love.

NONFICTION

The nonfiction prize was split between two winners.

Arthur Goldhammer, for his translation of The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution by Alexis de Tocqueville (Cambridge University Press)

This translation of an undisputed classic aims to be both accurate and readable. Tocqueville’s subtlety of style and profundity of thought offer a challenge to readers as well as to translators. As both a Tocqueville scholar and an award-winning translator, Arthur Goldhammer is uniquely qualified for the task. In his Introduction, Jon Elster draws on his recent work to lay out the structure of Tocqueville’s argument. Readers will appreciate The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution for its sense of irony as well as tragedy, for its deep insights into political psychology and for its impassioned defense of liberty.

Read an interview with Arthur Goldhammer

Richard Howard, for his translation of When the World Spoke French by Marc Fumaroli (New York Review Books)

During the eighteenth century, from the death of Louis XIV until the Revolution, French culture set the standard for all of Europe. In Sweden, Austria, Italy, Spain, England, Russia, and Germany, among kings and queens, diplomats, military leaders, writers, aristocrats, and artists, French was the universal language of politics and intellectual life. In When the World Spoke French, Marc Fumaroli presents a gallery of portraits of Europeans and Americans who conversed and corresponded in French, along with excerpts from their letters or other writings. […] Whether they were in Paris or far away, speaking French connected them in spirit with all those who desired to emulate Parisian tastes, style of life, and social pleasures. Their stories are testaments to the appeal of that famous “sweetness of life” nourished by France and its language.


24th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2011)

FICTION

The fiction prize was split between two winners.

Mitzi Angel, for her translation of 03 by Jean-Christophe Valtat (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

 

 

 

 

Lydia Davis, for her translation of Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (Viking/Penguin Group)

Emma Bovary is the original desperate housewife. Beautiful but bored, she spends lavishly on clothes and on her home and embarks on two disappointing affairs in an effort to make her life everything she believes it should be. Soon heartbroken and crippled by debts, she takes drastic action, with tragic consequences for her husband and daughter. In this landmark new translation of Gustave Flaubert’s masterwork, award-winning writer and translator Lydia Davis honors the nuances and particulars of Flaubert’s legendary prose style, giving new life in English to the book that redefined the novel as an art form.

NONFICTION

The nonfiction prize was split between two winners.

Frederick Brown, for his translation of Letters from America by Alexis de Tocqueville (Yale University Press)

Young Alexis de Tocqueville arrived in the United States for the first time in May 1831, commissioned by the French government to study the American prison system. For the next nine months he and his companion, Gustave de Beaumont, traveled and observed not only prisons but also the political, economic, and social systems of the early republic. Along the way, they frequently reported back to friends and family members in France. This book presents the first translation of the complete letters Tocqueville wrote during that seminal journey, accompanied by excerpts from Beaumont’s correspondence that provide details or different perspectives on the places, people, and American life and attitudes the travelers encountered. These delightful letters provide an intimate portrait of the complicated, talented Tocqueville, who opened himself without prejudice to the world of Jacksonian America. […] Accessible, witty, and charming, the letters Tocqueville penned while in America are of major interest to general readers, scholars, and students alike.

Jane Marie Todd, for her translation of Reading and Writing in Babylon by Dominique Charpin (Harvard University Press)

Over 5,000 years ago, the history of humanity radically changed direction when writing was invented in Sumer, the southern part of present-day Iraq. For the next three millennia, kings, aristocrats, and slaves all made intensive use of cuneiform script to document everything from royal archives to family records. […] The only book of its kind, Reading and Writing in Babylon introduces Mesopotamia as the birthplace of civilization, culture, and literature while addressing the technical side of writing and arguing for a much wider spread of literacy than is generally assumed. Charpin combines an intimate knowledge of cuneiform with a certain breadth of vision that allows this book to transcend a small circle of scholars. Though it will engage a broad general audience, this book also fills a critical academic gap and is certain to become the standard reference on the topic.

Read an Interview with Jane Marie Todd


23rd Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2010)

John Cullen, for his translation of Brodeck by Philippe Claudel (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)

After the close of a great war, a mysterious stranger arrives in a small European village. He is an artist and he begins sketching the villagers, showing the painful reality of the crimes and betrayals the war left in its wake. Consumed by distrust, the villagers conspire and murder him. The authorities commission Brodeck, a timid, low-level bureaucrat, to write a report that essentially whitewashes the incident. Brodeck agrees to write the official account, but he simultaneously sets down his version of the incident in a parallel narrative, which interweaves his own horrific experiences as a prisoner of war, the truth about the stranger’s disappearance, and the dark secrets the villagers have fought fiercely to keep hidden.


22nd Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2009)

FICTION

Jody Gladding & Elizabeth Deshays, for their co-translation of Small Lives by Pierre Michon (Archipelago Books)

Small Lives (Vies miniscules), Pierre Michon’s first novel, won the Prix France Culture. Michon explains that he wrote it “to save my own skin. I felt in my body that my life was turning around. This book born in an aura of inexpressible joy and catharsis rescued me more effectively than my aborted analysis.” In Small Lives, Michon paints portraits of eight individuals in his native region of La Creuse. In the process of exploring their lives, he explores the act of writing and his emotional connection to both. The quest to trace and recall these interconnected lives seared into his memory ultimately becomes a quest to grasp his own humanity and discover his own voice.

NONFICTION

Matthew Cobb & Malcolm DeBevoise, for their co-translation of Life Explained by Michel Morange (Yale University Press/Odile Jacob)

 

 

 


21st Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2008)

FICTION

Linda Coverdale, for her translation of Ravel by Jean Echenoz (The New Press)

Ravel is a beguiling and original evocation of the last ten years in the life of the musical genius Ravel, written by novelist Jean Echenoz. The book opens in 1928 as Maurice Ravel—dandy, eccentric, curmudgeon—crosses the Atlantic abroad the luxury liner the SS France to begin his triumphant grand tour of the United States. […] Illuminated by flashes of Echenoz’s characteristically sly humor, Ravel is a delightfully quirky portrait of a famous musician coping with the ups and downs of his illustrious career. It is also a beautifully written novel that’s a deeply touching farewell to a dignified and lonely man going reluctantly into the night.

NONFICTION

Linda Asher, for her translation of The Curtain by Milan Kundera (HarperCollins)

In this thought-provoking, endlessly enlightening, and entertaining essay on the art of the novel, renowned author Milan Kundera suggests that “the curtain” represents a ready-made perception of the world that each of us has—a pre-interpreted world. The job of the novelist, he argues, is to rip through the curtain and reveal what it hides. Here an incomparable literary artist cleverly sketches out his personal view of the history and value of the novel in Western civilization. In doing so, he celebrates a prose form that possesses the unique ability to transcend national and language boundaries in order to reveal some previously unknown aspect of human existence.


20th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2007)

FICTION

Sandra Smith, for her translation of Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky (Alfred A. Knopf Publishers)

Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940, as Parisians flee the city, human folly surfaces in every imaginable way. […] Moving on to a provincial village now occupied by German soldiers, the locals must learn to coexist with the enemy—in their town, their homes, even in their hearts.

When Irène Némirovsky began working on Suite Française, she was already a highly successful writer living in Paris. But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died. For sixty-four years, this novel remained hidden and unknown.

NONFICTION

Bruce Fink, for his translation of Écrits by Jaques Lacan (Norton)

Brilliant and innovative, Jacques Lacan’s work lies at the epicenter of modern thought about otherness, subjectivity, sexual difference, the drives, the law, and enjoyment. This new translation of his complete works offers welcome, readable access to Lacan’s seminal thinking on diverse subjects touched upon over the course of his inimitable intellectual career.


19th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2006)

FICTION

Daniel Weissbort, for his translation of Missing Person by Patrick Modiano (David Godine)

Guy Roland is in pursuit of the identity he lost in the murky days of the Paris Occupation. For ten years, he has lived without a past. His current life and name were given to him by his recently retired boss, Hutte, who welcomed him, a onetime client, into his detective agency. Guy makes full use of Hutte’s files—directories, yearbooks, and papers of all kinds going back half a century—but his leads are few. […] Both a detective mystery and a haunting meditation on the nature of the self, Patrick Modiano’s spare, hypnotic prose, superbly translated by Daniel Weissbort, draws readers into the intoxication of a rare literary experience.

NONFICTION

Sharon Bowman, for her translation of The American Enemy: the History of French Anti-Americanism by Philippe Roger (University of Chicago Press)

Georges-Louis Buffon, an eighteenth-century French scientist, was the first to promote the widespread idea that nature in the New World was deficient; in America, which he had never visited, dogs don’t bark, birds don’t sing, and—by extension—humans are weaker, less intelligent, and less potent. […] The American Enemy is Roger’s bestselling and widely acclaimed history of French anti-Americanism, presented here in English translation for the first time. With elegance and good humor, Roger goes back 200 years to unearth the deep roots of this anti-Americanism and trace its changing nature, from the belittling, as Buffon did, of the “savage American” to France’s resigned dependency on America for goods and commerce and finally to the fear of America’s global domination in light of France’s thwarted imperial ambitions. Roger sees French anti-Americanism as barely acquainted with actual fact; rather, anti-Americanism is a cultural pillar for the French, America an idea that the country and its culture have long defined themselves against. Sharon Bowman’s fine translation of this magisterial work brings French anti-Americanism into the broad light of day, offering fascinating reading for Americans who care about our image abroad and how it came about.


18th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2005)

FICTION

Helen Marx, for her translation of Silbermann by Jacques de Lacretelle (Helen Marx Books)

NONFICTION

Arthur Goldhammer, for his translation of Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville (The Library of America)

A young aristocratic lawyer, Tocqueville came to the United States in 1831 with his friend and fellow magistrate Gustave de Beaumont to study American penitentiary systems. […] In Democracy in America he vividly describes the unprecedented “equality of conditions” found in the United States and explores its implications for European society in the emerging modern era. His book provides enduring insight into the political consequences of widespread property ownership, the potential dangers to liberty inherent in majority rule, the importance of civil institutions in an individualistic culture dominated by the pursuit of material self-interest, the influence of the press and the judiciary in American politics, and the vital role of religion in American life, while prophetically examining the widening differences between the northern and southern states.

Read an interview with Arthur Goldhammer


17th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2004)

FICTION

Lydia Davis, for her translation of Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust (Viking Press)

Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time is one of the most entertaining reading experiences in any language and arguably the finest novel of the twentieth century. But since its original prewar translation there has been no completely new version in English. […] Swann’s Way is one of the preeminent novels of childhood: a sensitive boy’s impressions of his family and neighbors, all brought dazzlingly back to life years later by the taste of a madeleine. It also enfolds the short novel “Swann in Love,” an incomparable study of sexual jealousy that becomes a crucial part of the vast, unfolding structure of In Search of Lost Time. The first volume of the work that established Proust as one of the finest voices of the modern age—satirical, skeptical, confiding, and endlessly varied in his response to the human condition—Swann’s Way also stands on its own as a perfect rendering of a life in art, of the past recreated through memory.

NONFICTION

Janet Lloyd, for her translation of The Writing of Orpheus by Marcel Detienne (Johns Hopkins University Press)

Son of a mortal king and an immortal Muse, Orpheus possessed a gift for music unmatched among humans; with his lyre he could turn the course of rivers, drown the fatal song of the Sirens, and charm the denizens of the underworld. […] Where readers of subsequent centuries have been content to understand these mysteries as the stuff of obfuscation or mere folderol, Marcel Detienne finds in the writing of Orpheus a key to the thinking of the ancient Greeks. A profound understanding of ancient Greek myth in its cultural contexts allows Detienne to recover a cultural system from fragments and ephemera—to reproduce, with sensitivity to variation and nuance, the full richness of the mythological repertoire flowing from the writing of Orpheus. His investigation moves from the Orphic writings to broader mysteries: how Greek gods became myths, how myths informed later religious thinking, and how myths have come into play in polemics between competing religions. An eloquent answer to some of the most vexing questions about the myth of Orpheus and its far-reaching ramifications through time and culture, Detienne’s work ultimately offers a major rethinking of Greek mythology.


16th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2003)

FICTION

The fiction prize was split between two winners.

Jeff Fort, for his translation of Aminadab by Maurice Blanchot (University of Nebraska Press)

The world of Aminadab, Maurice Blanchot’s second novel, is dark, bizarre, and fantastic. Reminiscent of Kafka’s enclosed and allegorical spaces, Aminadab is both a reconstruction and a deconstruction of power, authority, and hierarchy. The novel opens when Thomas, upon seeing a woman gesture to him from a window of a large boarding house, enters the building and slowly becomes embroiled in its inscrutable workings. Although Thomas is constantly reassured that he can leave the building, he seems to be separated forever from the world he has left behind. The story consists of Thomas’s frustrated attempts to clarify his status as a resident in the building and his misguided interactions with the cast of sickly, depraved, or in some way deformed characters he meets, none of them ever quite what they seem to be. Aminadab, the man who according to legend guards the entrance to the building’s underground spaces, is only one of the mysteries reified by the rumors circulating among the residents. Written in a prose that is classical and at times lyrical, Blanchot’s novel functions as an allegory referring, above all, to the wandering and striving movement of writing itself.

James Hogarth, for his translation of The Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo (Modern Library)

A new translation by Scot James Hogarth for the first unabridged English edition of the novel, which tells the story of an illiterate fisherman from the Channel Islands who must free a ship that has run aground in order to win the hand of the woman he loves, a shipowner’s daughter.

NONFICTION

Anthony Roberts, for his translation of Jihad by Gilles Kepel (Harvard University Press)

The late twentieth century has witnessed the emergence of an unexpected and extraordinary phenomenon: Islamist political movements. Beginning in the early 1970s, militants revolted against the regimes in power throughout the Muslim world and exacerbated political conflicts everywhere. Their jihad, or “Holy Struggle,” aimed to establish a global Islamic state based solely on a strict interpretation of the Koran. […] Jihad is the first extensive, in-depth attempt to follow the history and geography of this disturbing political-religious phenomenon. Fluent in Arabic, Gilles Kepel has traveled throughout the Muslim world gathering documents, interviews, and archival materials inaccessible to most scholars, in order to give us a comprehensive understanding of the scope of Islamist movements, their past, and their present. As we confront the threat of terrorism to our lives and liberties, Kepel helps us make sense of the ominous reality of jihad today.


15th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2001)

Jordan Stump, for his translation of The Jardin des Plantes by Claude Simon (Northwestern University Press)

 

 

 


14th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 2000)

Linda Asher, for her translation of The Case of Dr. Sachs by Martin Winckler (Seven Stories Press)

Bruno Sachs is a country doctor who makes house calls and feels deeply for his patients. There are broken bones, unwanted pregnancies, people without the will to live, a friend dying of cancer. His pity for his fellow creatures is both his motivating force and his own untreatable condition. Among the deaths, love affairs, and small town gossip, a love story emerges at the heart of the novel—between Dr. Sachs and a young woman upon whom he once performed an abortion. […] Written in the second person, The Case of Doctor Sachs is filled with voices of silent suffering and arias of quiet joy. In France, where The Case of Doctor Sachs sold more than 600,000 copies and was awarded the Prix du Livre Inter, Martin Winckler’s novel has come to represent a new freedom of literary expression.


13th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 1999)

Richard Howard, for his translation of The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal (Random House)

Richard Howard’s exuberant and definitive rendition of Stendhal’s stirring tale has brought about the rediscovery of this classic by modern readers. Stendhal narrates a young aristocrat’s adventures in Napoleon’s army and in the court of Parma, illuminating in the process the whole cloth of European history. As Balzac wrote, “Never before have the hearts of princes, ministers, courtiers, and women been depicted like this…one sees perfection in every detail.”


12th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 1998)

Madeleine Velguth, for her translation of Children of Clay by Raymond Queneau (Sun & Moon Press)

 

 

 


11th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 1997)

The prize was split between two winners.

Linda Coverdale, for her translation of Literature or Life by Jorge Semprun (Viking Penguin)

Jorge Semprun was twenty years old – already an accomplished philosopher and poet – when arrested by Nazis for activites in the French Resistance. He was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp. Literature or Life, a bestseller in France, is a deeply personal account not only of Semprun’s time at Buchenwald, but also of the years before and after, of his painful attempts to write this book…created out of obsessions that returned him again and again like themes in a nightmarish rhapsody. His long reverie on life-as-death, now translated with the mesmerizing power of fiction. It is a profound contribution to Holocaust literature.

Barbara Wright, for her translation of Here by Nathalie Sarraute (George Braziller)

 

 

 


10th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 1996)

Arthur Goldhammer, for his translation of Realms of Memory: The Construction of the French Past, Vol.1 by Pierre Nora (Columbia University Press)

Read an interview with Arthur Goldhammer


9th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 1994)

Joachim Neugroschel, for his translation of With Downcast Eyes by Tahar Ben Jelloun (Little Brown & Co.)

 

 

 


8th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 1993)

Nina Rootes, for her translation of Sky Memoirs by Blaise Cendrars (Paragon House)

 

 

 


7th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 1992)

Lydia Davis, for her translation of Rules of the Game I: Scratches by Michel Leiris (Paragon House)

 

 

 


6th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 1991)

Burton Raffel, for his translation of Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais (Norton)

Rabelais’s vigorous examination of the life of his times—from bizarre battles to great drinking bouts, from satire on religion and education to matter-of-fact descriptions of bodily functions and desires—is one of the great comic masterpieces of literature.


5th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 1990)

Arthur Goldhammer, for his translation of A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution by François Furet and Mona Ozouf (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press)

Two centuries later, the French Revolution—that extraordinary event that founded modern democracy—continues to give rise to a reevaluation of essential questions. The ambition of this magnificent volume is not only to present the reader with the research of a wide range of international scholars on those questions, but also to bring one into the heart of the issues still under lively debate. Its form is as original as its goal: neither dictionary, in the traditional sense of the word, nor encyclopedia, it is deliberately limited to some ninety-nine entries organized alphabetically by key words and themes under five major headings. […] What unifies all the varied topics brought together in this dictionary is their authors’ effort to be “critical.” As such, the book rejects the dogmatism of closed systems and definitive interpretations. Its aim is less to make a complete inventory of the findings of the history of the French Revolution than to take stock of what remains problematical about those findings; this work thus offers the additional special quality of incorporating the rich historiographical literature unceasingly elaborated since 1789. With A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution, François Furet and Mona Ozouf invite the reader to recross the first two centuries of French democracy in order to gain a better understanding of the origins of the world in which we live today.

Read an interview with Arthur Goldhammer


4th Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 1989)

Franklin Philip, for his translation of The Statue Within by François Jacob (Basic Books)

 

 

 


3rd Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 1988)

David Bellos, for his translation of Life, a User’s Manual by Georges Perec (David Godine Publishers)

Structured around a single moment in time — 8:00 p.m. on June 23, 1975 — Perec’s spellbinding puzzle begins in an apartment block in the XVIIth arrondissement of Paris where, chapter by chapter, room by room, like an onion being peeled, an extraordinary rich cast of characters is revealed in a series of tales that are bizarre, unlikely, moving, funny, or (sometimes) quite ordinary. […] But the novel is more than an extraordinary range of fictions; it is a closely observed account of life and experience. The apartment block’s one hundred rooms are arranged in a magic square, and the book as a whole is peppered with a staggering range of literary puzzles and allusions, acrostics, problems of chess and logic, crosswords, and mathematical formula. All are there for the reader to solve.

Read an interview with David Bellos


2nd Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 1987)

Richard Howard, for his translation of William Marshal, the Flowering of Chivalry by Georges Duby (Pantheon Books)

Georges Duby, one of this century’s great medieval historians, has brought to life with exceptional brilliance and imagination William Marshal, adviser to the Plantagenets, knight extraordinaire, the flower of chivalry. A marvel of historical reconstruction, William Marshal is based on a biographical poem written in the thirteenth century, and offers an evocation of chivalric life—the contests and tournaments, the rites of war, the daily details of medieval existence—unlike any we have ever seen.


1st Annual Translation Prize
(Awarded in 1986)

Barbara Bray, for her translation of The Writing of Stones by Roger Caillois (University of Virginia Press)