2020 Warwick Prize for Women in Translation shortlist announcement

Seven titles have been shortlisted for the fourth annual award of the Warwick Prize for Women in Translation. The shortlist reflects the diversity of the record number of entries submitted to the prize in 2020.

The £1000 prize was established by the University of Warwick in 2017 to address the gender imbalance in translated literature and to increase the number of international women’s voices accessible by a British and Irish readership. In 2020 the prize is generously supported by the British Centre for Literary Translation and the British Comparative Literature Association.

For the second year in a row Magda Szabó and her translator from Hungarian Len Rix are on the shortlist with Abigail (MacLehose Press, 2020), the second in a trilogy of novels about the Second World War and the last to appear in English.

Although not on the shortlist, two titles from the longlist have been singled out for commendation by the judges: Isabella (Smokestack Books, 2019), a collection of poems by the sixteenth-century Italian poet Isabella Morra translated from the Italian by Caroline Maldonado; and the extraordinary memoir about mushrooms and grief, The Way Through the Woods (Scribe UK, 2019) by Malaysian-born Long Litt Woon, translated from Norwegian by Barbara Haveland.

The 2020 competition received a total of 132 eligible entries of which 16 titles made the initial longlist. The seven shortlisted titles include three novels (one of which is an epistolary novel), two collections of short stories, one collection of letters, and one young adult novella. Six source languages are represented: Arabic (Sudan), Chinese (China and Malaysia), German (Georgia/Germany), Hungarian (Hungary), Italian (Italian) and Swedish (Finland). The shortlist is dominated by independent publishers, including Comma Press and five publishers who appear on the shortlist for the first time: Daunt Books, Granta, HopeRoad, Scribe UK and Sort of Books.

The full list of shortlisted titles, in alphabetical order, is as follows:

  • Abigail by Magda Szabó, translated from Hungarian by Len Rix (MacLehose Press, 2020) 
  • Happiness, As Such by Natalia Ginzburg, translated from Italian by Minna Zallmann Proctor (Daunt Books Publishing, 2019) 
  • Lake Like a Mirror by Ho Sok Fong, translated from Chinese by Natascha Bruce (Granta Publications, 2019) 
  • Letters from Tove by Tove Jansson, edited by Boel Westin & Helen Svensson, translated from Swedish by Sarah Death (Sort of Books, 2019) 
  • The Eighth Life by Nino Haratischvili, translated from German by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin (Scribe UK, 2019) 
  • Thirteen Months of Sunrise by Rania Mamoun, translated from Arabic by Elisabeth Jaquette (Comma Press, 2019) 
  • White Horse by Yan Ge, translated from Chinese by Nicky Harman (HopeRoad, 2019) 

The 2020 prize is once again being judged by Amanda Hopkinson, Boyd Tonkin and Susan Bassnett. Last year the prize was awarded to The Years (Fitzcarraldo Editions), written by Annie Ernaux and translated from French by Alison L. Strayer. In 2018 the prize was awarded to the novel Belladonna (Maclehose Press), written by the late Daša Drndić and translated from Croatian by Celia Hawkesworth. The inaugural prize was awarded to Memoirs of a Polar Bear (Portobello Books), written by Japanese-German writer Yoko Tawada and translated from German by Susan Bernofsky.

Judge Boyd Tonkin comments: “Selected from a record entry, this outstanding shortlist not only takes readers on an epic journey across cultures from Finland to Sudan, and from Malaysia to Georgia. It honours a wide span of genres, from a young-adult novella to a multi-generational saga; from letters to short stories. Each book boasts a powerfully distinctive voice given fresh life in English thanks to a first-rate translation. Notably, this year’s shortlist also features previously untranslated work by three classic 20th-century authors: a reminder of the wealth of global women’s writing, past as well as present, that remains to be discovered by English-language readers.

Founder of the prize, Dr Chantal Wright of the University of Warwick’s School of Creative Arts, Performance and Visual Cultures, comments: “The diversity of the 2020 shortlist is thrilling to see, both in terms of source languages represented but also from the point of view of genre. I’m especially pleased that we managed to run this year’s competition despite the pandemic, in what has otherwise been an extremely challenging year for the arts. We look forward to revealing the winner on November 26th and also look ahead to celebrating the Prize’s fifth year within the framework of Coventry City of Culture in 2021.

The winner will be announced in an online award ceremony on Thursday 26 November. For further information about the prize, please contact the coordinators Chantal Wright and Holly Langstaff at womenintranslation@warwick.ac.uk or on 02476 573092.