ALTA Awards Recognize Excellence in Skillful Art of Translation
Sinan Antoon received the 2012 National Translation Award.
The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA), which is housed at UT Dallas, presented top awards to two separate collections of poetry at its annual conference held in Rochester, New York this week.
Sinan Antoon received the 2012 National Translation Award for In the Presence of Absence (Archipelago, 2011), his translation of verse by the late Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. The $5,000 prize is given annually to a translator whose work, by virtue of its quality and significance, has made the most valuable contribution to literary translation.
Don Mee Choi was honored with the 2012 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize for All the Garbage of the World, Unite! (Action Books, 2011) by the South Korean poet Kim Hyesoon. The $5,000 Stryk prize, which was established by an anonymous donor, recognizes the best book-length translation into English of Asian poetry or of source texts from Zen Buddhism.
Don Mee Choi won the 2012 Lucien Stryk Asian Translation Prize.
ALTA, which was co-founded by Rainer Schulte and A. Leslie Willson in 1978 at The University of Texas at Dallas, bridges cultural communication and understanding among countries and languages through the art and craft of literary translation. ALTA is the only organization in the United States dedicated solely to literary translation.
Honored this year, Antoon is an associate professor at New York University. His teaching and research interests lie in pre-modern Arabic literature and contemporary Arab culture and politics. His scholarly works include The Poetics of the Obscene: Ibn al-Hajjaj and Sukhf and numerous essays on the poetry of Darwish and Sargon Boulus, and on contemporary Iraqi culture. He has published two collections of poetry in Arabic and one collection in English: The Baghdad Blues. He has published three novels: I`jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody, which has appeared in German, Portuguese, Norwegian and Italian editions; The Pomegranate Alone; and Ya Maryam.
Elizabeth Lowe, vice president of ALTA and professor in the School of Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics at The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said Antoon's work preserves a valuable treasure.
“Antoon’s translation won not only for the high quality of the translation from the Arabic, but also for being a translation of the last words by someone who is arguably one of the world’s most important and beloved contemporary writers,” she said.
Antoon has also translated a selection of Iraqi poet Saadi Youssef’s late work, Nostalgia; My Enemy. His translation of Toni Morrison’s Home is forthcoming in Arabic in 2013.
Don Mee Choi is a recipient of a Daesan Translation Grant, Korea Literature Translation Institute Translation Grant, an American Literary Translators Association Travel Fellowship, and has served as poet-in-residence at the Henry Art Gallery. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the California Institute for the Arts and a doctorate in modern Korean literature and translation from Union Institute and University. She teaches at Renton Technical College and lives in Seattle.
“As translators, we are always rendering texts into language that will be understandable. There is often an unconscious tendency to retreat into familiar territory, dominated by common patterns and expressions, but Choi’s translation takes us someplace new in language. The book is filled with unforgettable turns of phrase, visionary solutions to difficult language problems, and a flow of individual poems that unites in a seamless whole,” said the Stryk prize selection committee.
ALTA promotes literary translation through the publication of Translation Review, Annotated Books Received, the ALTA Guides to Literary Translation, the ALTA Newsletter, and through the annual conference.
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