From Publisher Perspectives: “Using his winnings from the International Dublin Award, translator Daniel Hahn has established his own new prize for emerging translators—and their equally overlooked editors.”
One good competition has led to another. On June 21, when author José Eduardo Agualusa’s A General Theory of Oblivionwas named winner of this year’s €100,000 (US$114,640) International Dublin Literary Award, the prize was split with translator Daniel Hahn.
The Dublin prize, now in operation for 22 years, is said to be the richest for a single novel published in English. When there’s a translator involved, the purse is divided, €75,000 going to the author and €25,000 to the translator. Having translated the book from the Portuguese, Hahn delivered Agualusa’s acceptance speech at Dublin’s Mansion House.
And then he took some of his own winnings and created a new award.
The TA First Translation Prize—”TA” for the UK’s Translators Association—is so new that it hasn’t yet been added to the Society of Authors list of other translation prizes the society administers. Antonia Lloyd-Jones, who is joint chair of the Translators Association, calls it “a ground-breaking addition to the world of literary translation. By encouraging talented new translators, as well as visionary editors, it will increase the range of great literature that’s available in translation, and strengthen the relationships between publishers and translators.”
Visionary editors? Yes, the prize’s £2,000 (US$2,570) purse will have something in common with the Dublin award, the Man Booker International Prize, and a few others. Just as those prizes are split between author and translator, the award Hahn has endowed will be split—equally, as the Booker does it—between a first-time translator and her or his editor.
In a conversation with Hahn from between Brighton and Lewes in Sussex, what comes across is that translators—at times overlooked and underappreciated in the industry–have learned the hard way how important it is to share recognition. And his prize honors new translators, Hahn says, because breaking into the business is so difficult without recognition.
“There’s a kind of bottleneck,” Hahn says. “If you’re a publisher and you want to commission a translation from Portuguese, you’ll ask Margaret [Jull Costa] and you’ll ask Alison [Entrekin], and if they can’t do it, you’ll ask one or two other people and,” he says wryly, “you might then ask me. But a new translator of Portuguese has relatively little odds of getting in because there’s a queue of people who are through the door already.”
And Hahn didn’t want to stop with his prize’s recognition of a new translator. “It’s funny,” he says, “we translators complain about not being sufficiently visible in our work—and I think it’s a legitimate complaint—but nobody thinks about editors. And not just for the acquisition and commissioning but for the actual editing. Something on behalf of our profession that recognizes that profession is important.”
Think about how many prizes you’ve encountered that honored editors. Right.
“If I’m a better translator than I was 10 years ago,” Hahn says, “it’s because I’ve been edited well.”