Until recently, UR’s Three Percent website’s Best Translated Book Award offered no cash prize. This changed last week, when Amazon.com awarded the website a $25,000 grant in support of next year’s awards. This grant will support $5,000 cash prizes for both the winning translators and authors of the original works.

“A lot more publishers will be interested in getting their books [to be] part of it and a lot of translators will want to win it,” Director of Open Letter and Three Percent Chad W. Post said.

In the past, the BTBA have been noted in the press for their lack of cash prizes. With the associated cash value, it is anticipated that more journalists will be willing to write about the awards.

“We take it more seriously overall, especially because it’s funded by Amazon which is a legitimate cooperation,” Post said. “It legitimizes BTBA as an award in the American book culture and market.”

Three Percent, a resource for international literature at UR, serves to promote the field of translation to readers, editors and writers. BTBA was launched in 2007 to bring attention to the best works of fiction and poetry that are published in translation.

“Every [publication] has their year-end book list, but they’re almost all exclusively American authors,” Post said. “It seems like there could also be something else that would just be about the books that came out in translation.”

The awards have separate panels of judges for fiction and poetry, who will first announce the 25 title fiction longlist on Jan. 27, 2011. This is followed by a shortlist of 10 titles for both fiction and poetry, announced on March 24.

Judges base their decisions on both the quality of the original work and the quality of the English translation.

“I also take into account where the book has come from, the circumstances of its publication and author and a certain indefinable element that may best be expressed as what the book meant to me,” fiction panelist Scott Esposito said.

The 2010 winners include “The Confessions of Noa Weber” by Gail Hareven, translated from the Hebrew version by Dalya Bilu of Melville House in the category of fiction, and “The Russian Version” by Elena Fanailova, translated from Russian by Genya Turovskaya for poetry.

There will be an award ceremony in New York City to celebrate the shortlist and the final winning titles. It will also be part of the week long PEN World Voices Festival at the end of April.

“The award ceremony will be a much bigger deal [this time],” Post said. “All the international writers will be in New York City for this festival so it’s quite possible that our winning authors will be there.”

The grant also covers the travel expenses of the judges, who are flown in from all over the country to attend the ceremony.

Although the cash prizes are expected to have a major impact on contestant participation, Esposito feels that they won’t have as significant an effect when it comes to judges.

“For me, it doesn’t change a whole lot,” Esposito said. “I like reading and judging the books, and I’ll do that if we’re giving the winners money or not.”

Another panelist, Idra Novey, emphasized her hope that the cash prizes will encourage winners to keep translating novels, as well as help to facilitate this.

“I don’t know if the money will make a difference to readers of the winning book, but it will certainly make a difference to the translator and to the poet,” Novey said. “I hope it will help secure more time for them to write and translate and publish more work in the future.”

Post, who works with Amazon on a regular basis, had managed to convince the online retailer to underwrite the awards. Amazon has previously given money to Open Letter to publish books.

“All of the things are in place for BTBA to get a lot of attention,” Post said. “This should help the books that win to be in more bookstores and to sell more copies.”

Post adds that there will be events related to the awards and the winning titles at UR and that students can get involved in reviewing and promoting the books. If interested, they will also be able to attend the award ceremony.

Lim is a member of the class of 2014.



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