First graphic novel winner at the Society of Authors Translation Awards

Sophie Yanow’s translation of graphic novel Pretending is Lying from the original French has been awarded the ALCS-sponsored Scott Moncrieff Prize – one of seven prizes for literature in translation celebrated earlier this month.

ALCS is proud to sponsor the Society of Authors Translation Awards, which this year saw £15,000 in prizes awarded to outstanding translations of books across a range of genres. The Awards celebrate everything from short stories to art history in translations into English from Korean, Italian, German, French, Swedish, Spanish and Arabic.

In the last three years, ALCS has paid out over £1.8 million to translators for their works; however we are still holding over £160,000 worth of unclaimed secondary royalties for translators. If you or anyone you know translates works, we encourage you to become a Member of ALCS as some of that money may be due to you!

Submissions are now open for the 2019 Translation prizes, with full details on how to submit your work on the Society of Authors website.


Sponsored by Daniel Hahn and the British Council.

The TA First Translation Prizes is an annual £2,000 prize for a debut literary translation into English published in the UK. The Prize is shared between the translator and their editor. This year’s judges were Daniel Hahn, Philip Gwyn Jones and Margaret Jull Costa.

Winner: Janet Hong and her editor Ethan Nosowsky for a translation of The Impossible Fairytale by Han Yujoo (Tilted Axis Press) Translated from Korean.

It is a monstrous world that Han Yujoo depicts, among a monstrous regiment of children, and it needed a concomitant style in English to match the singular, unnerving, word-playful, original, and the gulf between the pictograms of Korean and the alphabetical words of English made the task of carrying all Han’s meanings across intact particularly perilous. But somehow, Janet Hong, with phenomenal dexterity, balance and perseverance, takes it all in her stride to deliver a translation that would be extraordinary from anyone at any time, but is doubly so for being her very first book-length work. It is a mighty achievement, and a mighty book.”


Sponsored by the Italian Cultural Institute, ALCS and the Society of Authors.

A biennial award of £2,000 for translations into English of full- length Italian works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges were Dr. Marta Arnaldi and Professor Ann Hallamore Caesar.

Winner: Gini Alhadeff for her translation of I Am the Brother of XX by Fleur Jaeggy (And Other Stories)

Gini Alhadeff has given us a flawless translation of twenty-one short stories by Fleur Jaeggy in which the Gothic, the fantastic, and the factual (there are stories about Calvino, Bachmann, Brodsky, and Oliver Sacks) are presented in a spare, crystalline prose that is direct and yet elusive, compassionate and yet icy.

Runner Up: Cristina Viti for her translation of Stigmata by Gëzim Hajdari (Shearsman Books)


Sponsored by the Goethe-Institut.

An annual award of £3,000 for translations into English of full- length German works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges were Dr. Benedict Schofield and Dr. Catherine Smale.

Winner: Tony Crawford for his translation of Wonder Beyond Belief by Navid Kermani (Polity Press)

“Tony Crawford’s excellent translation is well-paced and beautifully written. He skillfully handles Kermani’s complex syntax and specialised vocabulary, conveying the fluency and elegance of the original despite these technical challenges. He pays careful attention to the register of Kermani’s prose, allowing the author’s wit to shine through and producing an English version which is both engaging and, often, highly amusing.”

Runner Up: Tess Lewis for her translation of Kruso by Lutz Seiler (Scribe) 


Sponsored by the Institut français du Royaume-Uni, ALCS and the Society of Authors.

An annual award of £1,000 for translations into English of full- length French works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges were Dr. Ruth Cruickshank and Michèle Roberts.

Winner: Sophie Yanow for her translation of Pretending is Lying by Dominique Goblet (New York Review Comics)

Sophie Yanow’s translation bears witness brilliantly to the extraordinary symbiosis of image and text in Dominique Goblet’s graphic novel, gracefully taking on the constraints of the pre-drawn speech bubbles as well as the approximations of unsaid feelings (and sounds and animal cries) that also exceed them.”

Runner Up: Frank Wynne for his translation of Vernon Subutex 1 by Virginie Despentes (MacLehose Press)


Sponsored by the Embassy of Sweden and the Anglo-Swedish Literary Foundation.

A triennial award of £2,000 for translations into English of full-length Swedish language works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges are Karin Altenberg and Helen Sigeland.

Winner: Frank Perry for his translation of Bret Easton Ellis and the Other Dogs by Lina Wolff (And Other Stories)

“Perry’s translation stays true to a complex and fragmented narrative and its many competing voices. He dexterously captures the dislocated, sometimes distracted tone that gives this novel its surreal qualities.”

Runner Up: Deborah Bragan-Turner for her translation of The Parable Book by Per Olov Enquist (MacLehose Press)


Sponsored by ALCS and the Society of Authors.

An annual prize of £2,000 for translations into English of full-length Spanish language works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges were Dr. Katie Brown and Professor Francis Lough. 

Winner: Megan McDowell for her translation of Seeing Red by Lina Meruane (Atlantic)

“Seeing Red raises difficult questions about the line between love, pity, and sacrifice. Yet, there is a strain of dark humour running through the novel, including word play which rewards multiple readings. The distinctive style of the novel evokes Lina’s trauma, with sentences cut off mid-thought. Translator Megan McDowell expertly captures Meruane’s voice, making the brave decision not to make the text easier for an English reader.”

Runner Up: Daniel Hahn for his translation of In the Land of Giants by Gabi Martínez (Scribe) 


Sponsored by Omar Saif Ghobash and his family and the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature.

An annual award of £3,000 for published translations from Arabic of full-length works of imaginative and creative writing of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges were Pete Ayrton, Georgia de Chamberet, Dr Fadia Faqir and Dr Sophia Vasalou.

Winner: Luke Leafgren for his translation of The President’s Gardens by Muhsin Al-Ramli (MacLehose Press)

“Tender, funny, tragic, wise and poetic, The President’s Gardens is imbued with the richness and complexity of a region that has known so little peace over the last century. The translation reads smoothly and conveys beautifully the spirit and idiosyncrasies of the original.”

About the Society of Authors
The Society of Authors is the UK trade union for all types of writers, scriptwriters, illustrators and literary translators, at all stages of their careers. They have more than 10,000 members and have been advising individuals and speaking out for the profession for more than a century. In 2018, they awarded more than £600,000 in prizes and grants (for fiction, non-fiction, poetry and translation), and administer the Women’s Prize for Fiction and The Sunday Times PFD Young Writer of the Year Award.

Photograph © Adrian Pope