Navigation Kopfzeile

Feature: Prizes

In Search of the Best Non-Fiction Translators

New translation talent is discovered in a translation competition run by Geisteswissenschaften International and the German Book Office New York.

‘We were overwhelmed by the interest shown in this competition, and the very fine submissions we were privileged to read,’ said the jurors, acclaimed translator Shelley Frisch and Laura Leichum, translator and Digital Publishing & Rights Manager at Georgetown University Press.

In this inaugural year of the Geisteswissenschaften International Non-Fiction Translation (‘GINT’) Prize, approximately 200 contestants chose to translate one of three set excerpts, comprising short texts from Holocaust studies, law and film studies. ‘Each excerpt posed a set of unique semantic and syntactic challenges. We sought out translations that would best enable English-language readers to engage successfully with some of the finest non-fiction writing being published in Germany today. The winning translators needed to demonstrate an ability to handle specialised vocabulary and scholarly apparatus and to display a flair for language that would make these texts not just accessible to their new Englishlanguage readership, but enjoyable and rewarding,’ said the jurors. Of the many submissions received for this competition, the following three stood out as shining examples of fine translation.

First prize winner Sarah Pybus
First prize ($1,500) went to Sarah Pybus, who said the following: ‘I have always been interested in literary translation, and began to pursue this interest more actively when I went freelance. I am also a huge film fan, and so found the translation a really exciting challenge. I am absolutely thrilled that my translation was chosen by such a distinguished jury.’ The jurors found much to praise in her translation of the excerpt from Martin Seel’s Künste des Kinos, and said that ‘This entry stood out as a beautifully crafted essay with soaring prose. Rising to the complex challenges the text posed, [Sarah Pybus] came up with elegant renditions that resulted in a felicitous meeting of medium and message.’

The second prize ($1,000) was awarded to Fiona Graham, who translated an excerpt from Ronen Steinke’s Fritz Bauer oder Auschwitz vor Gericht. The judges complimented Graham on her translation, saying that she ‘tackled the text with aplomb, and demonstrated an adeptness for handling specialised diction, quotations from other sources, and scholarly notes.’ Graham chose this expert because she was curious as to ‘why a man who had brought the monsters of Auschwitz to trial and provided vital information enabling Eichmann to be caught was not a household name worldwide,’ and was pleased to translate an excerpt bringing light to his legacy.

The third and final prize ($500) was given to Sinéad Crowe, who also chose the excerpt from Steinke’s Fritz Bauer. This translation demonstrated a fine potential for handling complex syntax. Crowe was thrilled, and said, ‘Winning this prize has been hugely encouraging and has inspired me to find out more about translating non-fiction.’

The competition was organised by Geisteswissenschaften International and the German Book Office New York. Geisteswissenschaften International is a project to provide translation funding for German academic titles in the humanities, administered by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (German Publishers & Booksellers Association), the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, the German Foreign Office, and the VG Wort. Riky Stock of the German Book Office saw this as an opportunity to discover new translators. ‘US editors often ask us for translator recommendations. I am thrilled by the quality of the many submissions we received and we have been able to identify some talented translators even beyond the three winners.’


The prize-winners

Sarah Pybus studied English Literature, German, and Translation at the University of Sheffield, and has been translating commercially from German to English for eight years. Since 2012, she has worked as a freelance translator out of Sheffield, UK.

Fiona Graham was born and educated in the UK, is a professional translator, and is fluent in German, Dutch, Swedish, French, and Spanish. She started out by translating for the Dutch Ministry in 1987, then worked as a translator at the European Parliament in Luxembourg until she started translating for the European Commission in Brussels in 1997. She is also the co-editor at Swedish Book Review.

Sinéad Crowe is a native of Dublin, Ireland with a PhD in contemporary German theatre from the Trinity College Dublin. She has taught at various Irish universities as well as in Berlin, and is now a translator and copy editor based in Hamburg, Germany.


The texts for translation

Martin Seel: Künste des Kinos (‘Arts of Cinema’, S. Fischer Verlag, 2013, 256pp.)
Martin Seel analyses the connection between cinema and other arts, revealing how film has adopted many practices from architecture, painting and music.
Ronen Steinke: Fritz Bauer oder Auschwitz vor Gericht (‘Fritz Bauer or Auschwitz on Trial’, Piper Verlag, 2013, 352pp.)
Fritz Bauer, chief public prosecutor in Hessen, was the man who brought Adolf Eichmann to trial in Israel.
Markus Roth & Andrea Löw: Das Warschauer Getto (‘The Warsaw Ghetto’, C.H.Beck, 2013, 240pp.)
In 1943, 500,000 people were living in the Warsaw Ghetto. Here, those people are given a chance to speak for themselves through their diaries and memories.
English-language rights are still available for these three great texts.