Mozambican Mia Couto’s work wins PEN translation awards

Mia Couto
Mia Couto

The discussion about the languages we use to write our literature isn’t about to end any time soon. The debate has raged for years; write in the language of The Man (English, French, Arabic) or in our own (Swahili, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, Kinyarwanda, Shona, Zulu, Xhosa, Baganda, Nyanja, Somali, Amharic… I can go all day if you want). Its not going to end any time soon.

The debate allows a unique group of individuals to thrive; translators. While those who translate audio at the AU and UN have their job cut out, you have to feel for those who have to translate a book cover to cover without missing out the essence of the book. They need all the help they can get.

Which is where the PEN/Heim Translation Fund comes in. It provides grants to support the translation of book-length works of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, or drama that have not previously appeared in English in print or have appeared only in an outdated or otherwise flawed translation.

The fund winners who go home with 2,000 to 4,000 bucks (US dollars) were announced last week and one of the grant winners is Eric M B Becker who will be translating Selected Stories which was written by Mozambican Mia Couto. Mia Couto for those who might be too lazy to google is considered to be one of the most important writers in Mozambique with his work published in more than 20 countries and in various languages including Portuguese, English, French, German, Italian, Serbian and Catalan. He is also this year’s winner of the Neustadt International Prize for Literature.

Finally we English speakers will be able to sample more from one of our Portuguese speaking brothers from Mozambique after the work is done. That can only be a good thing.

Now y’all translator types looking for funding need to get to translating the works of Ken Walibora from Swahili for the world to see the genius of that dude.

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