MLA‐Roth Award

Bernofsky & MLA president Simon Gikandi. (Photo: Edward Savaria, Jr.)

In collaboration with the Modern Language Association, the MLA‐Roth Award for translation of literary work into English has been given since 2000. As of January 2018, it started being given every year, instead of on a biennial basis. This award, like very few of the other translation prizes given at the annual MLA caonvention, is not limited to the translation of literary works written in a specific language. Recipients have translated works in languages from all over the globe. For a complete list, please see MLA-Roth Award Recipients.

The 2019 award went to Susan Bernofsky for her translation from theGerman 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.

The jury additionally awarded an Honorable Mention to Alistair Ian Blythfor 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.