Maryse Condé and Stella Gaitano are among the nineteen winners of the English PEN Translation Awards 2020 announced on June 10, 2020.
English PEN is the founding centre of PEN (Poets, Essayists, Novelists) International, a worldwide writers’ association with 145 centres in more than 100 countries. One of its activities is the translation awards which encourage UK publishers to acquire more books from other languages. In the award, started in 2012, 75% of translation costs for selected projects are met by English PEN. Where a publisher’s annual turnover is less than £500,000, up to 100% of translation costs can be covered.
In 2020, nineteen books in fiction, non-fiction, poetry, short stories, and children’s literature from fifteen countries and thirteen languages won English PEN’s translation awards.
“The panel was impressed by the quality and diversity of the submissions, and the range of publishers applying,” said Ros Schwartz the Co-chair of the English PEN Writers in Translation Committee. “We are delighted at the outcome, which represents a very broad linguistic and geographical spread across diverse genres, as well as a good gender balance – with almost two-thirds of the awarded books by women writers, and over half translated by women.”
In the list of award winners, here are the two books by African/Black writers.
Waiting for the Waters to Rise by Maryse Condé, translated from the French by Richard Philcox (World Editions, April 2021). Country: Guadeloupe.
Maryse Condé is a French novelist, critic, and playwright whose novels explore the African diaspora that resulted from slavery and colonialism in the Caribbean. Her first novel Heremakhonon was published in 1976. Her most recent contributions have included Le Coeur à Rire Et à Pleurer – Souvenirs De Mon Enfance (1999), Who Slashed Celanire’s Throat?: A Fantastical Tale (2004), Victoir: My Mother’s Mother (2006), and The Story of The Cannibal Woman: A Novel (2007), Like Two Brothers (play, 2007).
In Waiting for the Waters to Rise, Babakar Traoré’s childhood, with a father from Mali and a mother from Guadeloupe, unfolds in Mali under the protective wing of Thécla Minerve, whose disturbing blue eyes isolate her from the women around her, who consider her a witch. Nevertheless, the young boy feels a boundless love towards this loving and possessive mother, who will soon appear only in his dreams.
Eddo’s Souls by Stella Gaitano translated from the Arabic by Sawad Hussain (Dedalus, June 2021). Country: South Sudan.
Stella Gaitano, born in Khartoum, Sudan, and studied pharmacy at Khartoum University. Among the authors who have influenced her are the Sudanese At-Tayyib Salih, as well as Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende. She has written Wilted Flowers (2002), Homecoming (2015), and Withered Flowers (2018).
Eddo’s Souls, is a historical novel set in the 1970s and 80s, around family life during that period’s coups, counter-coups, and popular protests.
You can see the whole list of winners here.