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.
33rd Annual Translation Prize (Awarded in 2020)
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.
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
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
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.
The nonfiction prize was awarded to:
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.
Book descriptions courtesy of the respective publishers.
31st Annual Translation Prize
Paul Eprile’s 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’s translation of The Principle by Jérôme Ferrari
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.
Samuel E. Martin’s translation of Bark by Georges-Didi Huberman
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.
The text proceeds as a series of reflections, accompanied by Didi-Huberman’s photographs of the visit. The photographs are not meant to be art—Didi-Huberman confesses that he “photographed practically everything without looking”—but approach it nevertheless. Didi-Huberman tells us that his grandparents died at Auschwitz, but his account is more universal than biographical. As he walks from place to place, he observes that in German birches are birken; Birkenau designates the meadow where the birches grow. Didi-Huberman sees and photographs the “reconstructed” execution wall; the floors of the crematorium, forgotten witnesses to killing; and the birch trees, lovely but also resembling prison bars. Taking his own photographs, he thinks of the famous photographs taken in 1944 by a member of the Sonderkommando ,the only photographic documentation of the camp before the Germans destroyed it, hoping to hide the evidence of their crimes. Didi-Huberman notices a “bizarre proliferation of white flowers on the exact spot of the cremation pits.” The dead are not departed.
Alison L. Strayer’s 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
The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal // Farrar, Straus & Giroux
About the Book
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.
Jane Marie Todd
The French Resistance by Olivier Wieviorka // Harvard University Press
About the Book
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.
The Resistance was homegrown, arising from the soil of French civil society. Resisters had to improvise in the fight against the Nazis and the collaborationist Vichy regime. They had no blueprint to follow, but resisters from all walks of life and across the political spectrum formed networks, organizing activities from printing newspapers to rescuing downed airmen to sabotage. Although the Resistance was never strong enough to fight the Germans openly, it provided the Allies invaluable intelligence, sowed havoc behind enemy lines on D-Day, and played a key role in Paris’s liberation.
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.
Lauren Elkin and Charlotte Mandell
Jean Cocteau: A Life by Claude Arnaud // Yale University Press
About the Book
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.
29th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Malcolm DeBevoise for his translation of Birth of a Theorem by Cédric Villani (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Christine Donougher for her translation of Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (Penguin Classics / Penguin Random House)
Steven Rendall for his translation of Bonaparte: 1769-1802 by Patrice Gueniffey (Harvard University Press)
28th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
David Ball for his translation of Diary of the Dark Years, 1940-1944 by Jean Guéhenno (Oxford University Press)
Donald Nicholson-Smith for his translation of The Mad and the Bad by Jean-Patrick Manchette (New York Review Books)
27th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Adriana Hunter for her translation of Eléctrico W by Hervé Le Tellier (Other Press)
About the Book
Eléctrico W // 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.
Alison Dundy and Nicholas Elliott for their translation of The Falling Sky by Davi Kopenawa and Bruce Albert (Harvard University Press)
About the book
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.
26th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Nora Scott for her translation of The Metamorphoses of Kinship by Maurice Godelier (Verso Books)
Alyson Waters for her translation of Prehistoric Times by Eric Chevillard (Archipelago Books)
25th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Marina Harss for her translation of The Mirador: Dreamed Memories of Irène Némirovsky by Her Daughter by Elisabeth Gille (New York Review Books)
Arthur Goldhammer for his translation of The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution by Alexis de Tocqueville (Cambridge University Press)
Richard Howard for his translation of When the World Spoke French by Marc Fumaroli (New York Review Books)
24th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
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)
Frederick Brown for his translation of Letters from America by Alexis de Tocqueville (Yale University Press)
Jane Marie Todd for her translation of Reading and Writing in Babylon by Dominique Charpin (Harvard University Press)
23rd Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
John Cullen for his translation of Brodeck by Philippe Claudel (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday)
22nd Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Jody Gladding & Elizabeth Deshays for their translation of Small Lives by Pierre Michon (Archipelago Books)
Matthew Cobb & Malcolm DeBevoise for their translation of Life Explained by Michel Morange (Yale University Press/Odile Jacob)
21st Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Linda Coverdale for her translation of Ravel by Jean Echenoz (The New Press)
Linda Asher for her translation of The Curtain by Milan Kundera (HarperCollins)
20th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Sandra Smith for her translation of Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky (Alfred A. Knopf Publishers)
Bruce Fink for his translation of Écrits by Jaques Lacan (Norton)
19th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Daniel Weissbort for his translation of Missing Person by Patrick Modiano (David Godine)
Sharon Bowman for her translation of The American Enemy: the History of French Anti-Americanism by Philippe Roger (University of Chicago Press)
18th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Helen Marx for her translation of Silbermann by Jacques de Lacretelle (Helen Marx Books)
Arthur Goldhammer for his translation of Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville (The Library of America)
17th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Lydia Davis for her translation of Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust (Viking Press)
Janet Lloyd for her translation of The Writing of Orpheus by Marcel Detienne (Johns Hopkins University Press)
16th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Jeff Fort for his translation of Aminadab by Maurice Blanchot (University of Nebraska Press)
James Hogarth for his translation of The Toilers of the Sea by Victor Hugo (Modern Library)
Anthony Roberts for his translation of Jihad by Gilles Kepel (Harvard University Press)
15th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Jordan Stump for his translation of The Jardin des Plantes by Claude Simon (Northwestern University Press)
14th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Linda Asher for her translation of The Case of Dr. Sachs by Martin Winckler (Seven Stories Press)
13th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Richard Howard for his translation of The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal (Random House)
12th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Madeleine Velguth for her translation of Children of Clay by Raymond Queneau (Sun & Moon Press)
11th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Linda Coverdale for her translation of Literature or Life by Jorge Semprun (Viking Penguin)
Barbara Wright for her translation of Here by Nathalie Sarraute (George Braziller)
10th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Arthur Goldhammer for his translation of Realms of Memory: The Construction of the French Past, Vol.1 by Pierre Nora (Columbia University Press)
9th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Joachim Neugroschel for his translation of With Downcast Eyes by Tahar Ben Jelloun (Little Brown & Co.)
8th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Nina Rootes for her translation of Sky Memoirs by Blaise Cendrars (Paragon House)
7th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Lydia Davis for her translation of Rules of the Game I: Scratches by Michel Leiris (Paragon House)
6th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Burton Raffel for his translation of Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais (Norton)
5th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
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)
4th Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Franklin Philip for his translation of The Statue Within by François Jacob (Basic Books)
3rd Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
David Bellos for his translation of Life, a User’s Manual by Georges Perec (David Godine Publishers)
2nd Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Richard Howard for his translation of William Marshal, the Flowering of Chivalry by Georges Duby (Pantheon Books)
1st Annual Translation Prize Awards Ceremony
Barbara Bray for her translation of The Writing of Stones by Roger Callois (University of Virginia Press)