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.”