Sarah Death wins the Bernard Shaw Prize for translation for the third time

11 February 2022

The literary translator Sarah Death wins for the third time at the Society of Authors’ annual Translation Prizes for a ‘flawless’ translation from Swedish. Newcomer Jackie Smith wins the TA First Translation Prize for a debut translation.

Eight literary translators shared a total prize fund worth almost £19,000 on Thursday at the Society of Authors’ annual Translation Prizes, with Sarah Death’s translation of Letters from Tove by Tove Jansson, edited by Boel Westin and Helen Svensson (Sort of Books), taking home the Bernard Shaw Prize.

Prizes were awarded for translations from Swedish, Spanish, Arabic, German, French, Dutch, as well as for a debut literary translation from any language, with the winners announced in an online ceremony.

The Bernard Shaw Prize is an award of £2,000 for translations into English of full-length Swedish language works of literary merit and general interest. Until now it has been a triennial award but it will become biennial from 2022, with the next prize to be awarded in 2024. Sarah Death previously won the Bernard Shaw Prize in 2003 for The Angel House by Kerstin Ekman (Norvik Press) and again in 2006 for Snow by Ellen Mattson (Jonathan Cape).

This year’s judges were Charlotte Berry and Annika Lindskog. They named Sarah Death’s translation as the ‘stand-out contribution’, with Charlotte Berry commenting: ‘Sarah Death is to be congratulated for her flawless translation which was a delight to read… This translation confirms my view of Death as one of the foremost British translators working today and she undoubtedly deserves recognition for showcasing Swedish literature to a much wider audience.’

We also saw Jackie Smith win the TA First Translation Prize for her first literary translation, a translation from German of An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky (MacLehose Press). This annual £2,000 prize is for a debut literary translation into English from any language. It is shared between the translator and their editor.

This year’s judges were Daniel Hahn, Vineet Lal, and Annie McDermott. Commenting on the win, Annie McDermott said: ‘This is an astonishing achievement. Every intricate, seamlessly unfurling sentence of Jackie Smith’s translation feels like a work of art – particularly impressive given the shape-shifting nature of this book, which moves through different genres, voices and historical periods.’

The winners

The Bernard Shaw Prize for translation from Swedish

A triennial award, changing to biennial from 2022, of £2,000 for translations into English of full-length Swedish language works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges were Charlotte Berry and Annika Lindskog.

WINNER: Sarah Death for a translation of Letters from Tove by Tove Jansson and edited by Boel Westin and Helen Svensson (Sort of Books)
Joint runners-up: Amanda Doxtater for a translation of Crisis by Karin Boye (Norvik Press), and Sarah Death for a translation of Chitambo by Hagar Olsson (Norvik Press)

Premio Valle Inclán for translation from Spanish

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 Margaret Jull Costa and Sarah Maitland.

WINNER: Fionn Petch for a translation of A Musical Offering by Luis Sagasti (Charco Press)
Runner-up: Lisa Dillman for a translation of A Luminous Republic by Andrés Barba (Granta)

The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for translation from Arabic

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 Roger Allen, Rosemarie Hudson, Ronak Hosni, and Caroline McCormick.

WINNER: Sarah Enany for a translation of The Girl with Braided Hair by Rasha Adly (Hoopoe an Imprint of AUC Press)

The Schlegel-Tieck Prize for translation from German

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 Jen Calleja and Alexander Starritt.

WINNER: Karen Leeder for a translation of Porcelain: Poem on the Downfall of My City by Durs Grünbein (Seagull Books)
Runner-up: Simon Pare for a translation of Cox; or, The Course of Time by Christoph Ransmayr (Seagull Books)

The Scott Moncrieff Prize for translation from French

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 Gini Alhadeff and Ian Patterson.

WINNER: Sam Taylor for a translation of The Invisible Land by Hubert Mingarelli (Granta)
Runner-up: Emily Boyce for a translation of A Long Way Off by Pascal Garnier (Gallic Books)

The TA First Translation Prize for debut translation from any language

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, Vineet Lal, and Annie McDermott.

WINNERS: Jackie Smith and editor Bill Swainson for a translation of An Inventory of Losses by Judith Schalansky (MacLehose Press)
Runners-up: Padma Viswanathan and editor Edwin Frank for a translation of São Bernardo by Graciliano Ramos (New York Review Books)

The Vondel Translation Prize for translation from Dutch or Flemish

A biennial award of €5,000 for translations into English of full-length Dutch or Flemish works of literary merit and general interest. This year’s judges were Susan Massotty, Jane Draycott and Michele Hutchison.

WINNER: David Doherty for a translation of Summer Brother by Jaap Robben (World Editions)
Runner-up: David McKay for a translation of Adrift in the Middle Kingdom by J.J. Slauerhoff (Handheld Press)

The Goethe-Institut Award for new translation

A biennial award of €1,000 for the best translation from German into English of a chosen text. This year’s text was an excerpt from Schwitters by Ulrike Draesner. The winner also attends the Leipzig Book Fair, as well as the International Translators’ meeting organised by the Literary Colloquium Berlin. This year’s judges were Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp and Steph Morris.

WINNER: Sharon Howe
Runner-up: George Robarts and Robert Sargant