Books by Agnès Agboton, Djamila Morani, Ibrahima Balde and Amets Arzallus Antia feature on the English PEN Translates awards announced on February 10, 2021.

PEN Translates was launched, with support from Arts Council England, to encourage UK publishers to acquire more books from other languages in 2012. The award helps UK publishers to meet the costs of translating new works into English – whilst ensuring translators are acknowledged and paid properly for their work.

The list announced on Wednesday included books from 14 countries and 12 languages; here are the winners with the African interest;

  • Voice of the Two Shores by Agnès Agboton, translated from the Gun and Spanish by Lawrence Schimel (flipped eye publishing). Countries of origin: Benin and Spain.
  • The Djinn’s Apple by Djamila Morani, translated from the Arabic by Sawad Hussain (Neem Tree Press). Country of origin: Algeria.
  • Little Brother by Ibrahima Balde and Amets Arzallus Antia, translated from the Basque by Timberlake Wertenbaker (Scribe). Countries of origin: Guinea, Spain and France.

Will Forrester, Translation and International Manager at English PEN, said:

These fifteen books are significant works of literature. Remarkably varied, they are united in being astonishingly good reads. I am pleased that PEN Translates continues to foster internationalism, diversity, talent, and literary quality in the UK market – particularly at a time in which the movement of literature and ideas across borders is so vital. These books will make their marks over the coming years.

Sarah Ardizzone, Co-chair of the English PEN Translation Advisory Group, said:

In challenging times for the UK publishing industry, it’s important to acknowledge that disruption also offers exciting opportunities for reimagining a more internationalist future. The PEN Translates Selection Panel was inspired by the calibre and range of submissions. This outstanding list includes poetry from Belarus and Benin, historical YA fiction from the Algerian Arabic and short stories as Kurdish speculative fiction, as well as the spoken account of Ibrahima, an undocumented Guinean migrant, whose life-story is rendered into English by Timberlake Wertenbaker. We’re excited to be supporting a diverse range of publishers too – from the new and innovative Afropolitan Digital to Jonathan Cape in its centennial year. This is what PEN Translates means by ‘inclusive’: a bookshelf that makes space for all kinds of readers, where the offering is great literature telling important stories and sharing fresh perspectives, in exceptional translation.