Damion Searls

MLA Roth Award, 2020

The 2020 award went to Damion Searls for his translation from the German of Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl by Uwe Johnson. Set in 1967, the book follows the lives of Gesine Cresspahl, a German émigré to Manhattan and single mother to ten-year-old Marie, dedicating a chapter for each day of the year. Damion Searls is an American translator and writer who specializes in translation from German, Norwegian, French, and Dutch. According to Parul Sehgal of The New York Times, “Searls’s superb translation inscribes Johnson’s restlessness and probing into word choice and the structures of the sentences themselves, which quiver with the anxiety to get things right, to see the world as it is.”

Donald Rayfield

MLA Roth Honorable Mention, 2020 

Donald Rayfield was awarded an honorable mention for his translation from the Russian of Varlam Shalamov’s Kolyma Stories, Vol. 1. Kolyma Stories is a collection of short fictional stories based upon the fifteen years that Shalamov spent in a Soviet prison camp. According to Penguin Random House, “[Shalamov’s] stories are at once the biography of a rare survivor, a historical record of the Gulag, and a literary work of unparalleled creative power, insight, and conviction.” Rayfield, a professor of Russian and Georgian at the Queen Mary University of London, is an English author and translator and has written several acclaimed books examining Russian and Georgian history.

Asselin Charles

MLA Roth Honorable Mention, 2020

Asselin Charles, a professor of Communication and Literary Studies at Sheridan College, was awarded an honorable mention for his translation from the French of Frankétienne’s Dézafi. Written in an experimental style, Dézafi follows the story of a Hatian plantation that is worked by zombies under the rule of a living master. When the master’s daughter falls in love with a zombie, allowing him to return to his human form, an uprising begins amongst the zombie workers to challenge their oppression. The novel provides a poignant commentary on Haiti’s history of slavery, and Charles’ translation brings it to English language readers for the first time.

Susan Bernofsky

MLA Roth Award, 2019 

The 2019 award went to Susan Bernofsky for her translation from the German of Go, Went, Gone, by Jenny Erpenbeck. Erpenbeck is the award-winning author of seven novels, five of which Bernofsky has translated into English. Erpenbeck’s moving 2015 novel Go, Went, Gone recounts the story of a former (East German) academic who befriends and becomes involved in the precarious lives of a group of African refugees in Berlin. Bernofsky, one of today’s best-known translators of German-language literature, directs the Program in Literary Translation in the MFA Writing Program at Columbia University’s School of the Arts.

Alistair Ian Blyth

MLA Roth Award, Honorable Mention, 2019 

Alistair Ian Blyth was awarded an Honorable Mention for his translation from the Romanian of The Book of Whispers, by Varujan Vosganian. A Romanian politician, economist and author of novels, essays and poems, Vosganian is of Armenian descent. In this moving novel, he unfolds the experience and memory of the horrific Armenian genocide that took place a century ago in the Ottoman Empire. Originally written in 2009/12 and translated into over 20 languages, Blyth’s translation makes the book  available to English-language readers for the first time.

Liam Mac Com Iomaire & Tim Robinson

MLA-Roth Award, 2018

The 2018 award went to Liam Mac Com Iomaire and Tim Robinson for their translation of Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s Irish classic, Graveyard Clay / Cré na Cille: A Narrative in Ten Interludes (Yale University Press, 2016). In critical opinion and popular polls, Graveyard Clay is invariably ranked the most important prose work in modern Irish. It is a novel of black humor, reminiscent of the work of Synge and Beckett. The story unfolds entirely in dialogue as the newly dead arrive in the graveyard, bringing news of recent local happenings to those already confined in their coffins. Avalanches of gossip, backbiting, flirting, feuds, and scandal-mongering ensue, while the absurdity of human nature becomes ever clearer. This bold new translation is the shared project of two fluent speakers of the Irish of Ó Cadhain’s native region.

Esther Allen

MLA-Roth Award, Honorable Mention, 2018

Esther Allen won an honorable mention for her translation of Zama, by Antonio Di Benedetto. First published in 1956 and available in English for the first time, Zama (New York ReviewBooks, 2016) takes place in the last decade of the eighteenth century and describes the solitary, suspended existence of Don Diego de Zama, a highly placed servant of the Spanish crown who has been posted to Asunción, the capital of remote Paraguay. Eaten up by pride, lust, petty grudges, and paranoid fantasies, Don Diego does as little as he possibly can while plotting an eventual transfer to Buenos Aires, where everything about his hopeless existence will, he is confident, be miraculously transformed and made good. As Benjamin Kunkel wrote in The New Yorker: “The belated arrival of Zama in the United States raises an admittedly hyperbolic question: Can it be that the Great American Novel was written by an Argentinean? It’s hard, anyway, to think of a superior novel about the bloody life of the frontier.”

Amy Baram Reid

MLA-Roth Award, Honorable Mention, 2018

Amy Baram Reid won an honorable mention for her translation of Mount Pleasant, by Patrice Nganang. MountPleasant (Macmillan, 2017) tells the astonishing story of the birth of modern Cameroon, a place subject to the whims of the French and the Germans, yet engaged in a cultural revolution. According to Kirkus Reviews, “Cameroonian writer Nganang delivers a modern epic, tinged with liberal doses of magical realism, of life in his country’s colonial era . . . An elegantly drawn and engaging world of a sort unknown to most readers—but one they’ll be glad to have visited.” Born in Cameroon,  Nganang  is a novelist, a poet, and an essayist. His novel Temps de chien received the Prix Littéraire Marguerite Yourcenar and the Grand prix littéraire d’Afrique noire; he is also the author of La Joie de vivre and L’Invention d’un beau regard and teaches comparative literature at Stony Brook University.

Maureen Freely & Alexander Dawes

MLA-Roth Award, 2016

The Time Regualtion Institute

Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawes won the MLA-Roth Award for their spectacular translation of The Time Regulation Institute (Penguin, 2014), by Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar, which describes the misadventures of the antihero Hayri Irdal, as tradition meets modernity in early 20th-century Turkey. In the words of Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk, “Ahmet Hamdi Tanpinar is undoubtedly the most remarkable author in modern Turkish literature. With The Time Regulation Institute, this great writer has created an allegorical masterpiece, which makes Turkey’s attempts to westernize and its delayed modernity understandable in all its human ramifications.”

Robert Chandler & Elizabeth Chandler

MLA-Roth Award Honorable Mention, 2016

Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler received recognition for their translation of The Captain’s Daughter, by Alexander Pushkin (New York Book Review Books, 2014).