At the 69th National Book Awards in November 2018, the prestigious American literary prize will honor both author and translator in the new award category for translated literature.
The National Book Foundation, the non-profit organization that has been administering the awards since 1950, announced the new category on February 1, 2018, saying that it is meant to “broaden readership for global voices and spark dialogue around international stories.”
“We now have the opportunity to recognize exceptional books that are written anywhere in the world, and to encourage new voices and perspectives to become part of our national discourse,” said David Steinberger, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Book Foundation, in a media statement.
The new Award for Translated Literature is the first category to be added to the National Book Awards since 1996. The other four categories are fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and young people’s literature.
Among the recipients of the National Book Awards include American literary greats Philip Roth, John Updike, Bernard Malamud, and Norman Mailer. Many awardees have also won the Nobel Prize for Literature, including William Faulkner and Saul Bellow, and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction such as Alice Walker.
“We are a nation of immigrants, and we should never stop seeking connection and insight from the myriad cultures that consistently influence and inspire us,” said Lisa Lucas, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation.
The winners in the new category will receive a bronze sculpture and a USD 10,000 prize money to be split evenly between the author and translator. Finalists will receive USD 1,000, a medal, and a judges’ citation.
This literary translation prize is more than just good news for an industry that has long struggled not just for recognition but also for compensation. In January 2018, Slator reported that literary translators in the US and Germany have challenging work conditions that make it hard to “earn a living.”