2022 Translation Prize Winners
We are delighted to announce the 35th Annual Translation Prize winners, a group of four exceptional English translations of French works of fiction and nonfiction.
Lara Vergnaud’s 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.
Lara Vergnaud is a translator of prose, creative nonfiction, and scholarly works from the French. She has translated books by Zahia Rahmani, Ahmed Bouanani, Mohamed Leftah, Samira Sedira, and Fatima Daas, among others. She is the recipient of two PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants and a French Voices Grand Prize, and was shortlisted for the 2022 PEN Translation Prize.
This year, the non-fiction award has been split between two winning translators whose works were deemed to be of equal excellence and importance by the jury.
Susan Emanuel’s 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 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.
Susan Emanuel (Susan Boyd-Bowman) is the daughter and descendant of linguists. After careers in public broadcasting in Canada and in educational broadcasting (BBC/Open University) and teaching film and media studies at the University of Bristol in England, she became an academic translator. She has been a French-to-English translator or more than forty years, working on academic and general audience books, articles, and blogs in the social sciences, history, and philosophy. Cultural history is her favorite subject. After working on Dominique Kalifa’s previous book Vice, Crime and Poverty before taking up The Belle Époque: A Cultural History, Paris and Beyond, both for Columbia University Press. Her first literary translation, Aline Kiner’s The Night of the Beguines, set in medieval Paris, will be published by Pushkin Press as Mirror of Simple Souls next year.
Sophie R. Lewis’s 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.
Sophie R. Lewis is a translator and an editor. Working with Portuguese and French, she has translated Natalia Borges Polesso, João Gilberto Noll and Sheyla Smanioto, also Stendhal, Jules Verne, Marcel Aymé, Violette Leduc, Leïla Slimani, Noémi Lefebvre, Emmanuelle Pagano and Colette Fellous, among others. Her translations have been shortlisted for the Scott Moncrieff and Republic of Consciousness prizes, and longlisted for the International Booker Prize. With Gitanjali Patel, she co-founded the Shadow Heroes translation workshops enterprise –www.shadowheroes.org. She is currently translating two novels, Patrícia Melo’s Mulheres Empilhadas and Claire Berest’s Artifices. A Londoner at heart, she is living in the Seychelles at the moment.