The winner of this year's Helen and Kurt Wolff Translation Prize is David Dollenmayer, for his translation of Moses Rosenkranz' Kindheit. You can read the press release here. Professor Dollenmayer joins the ranks of distinguished translators to have won this $10,000-prize. But of course the best thing about it is he gets to spend three months at the idyllic Literarisches Colloquium in Berlin. With a view of the lake from the breakfast table, although a bit of a way out of town for enjoying the nightlife. Unless you're interested in foxes, that is.
Moses Rosenkranz lived from 1904 to 2003, and was buffeted from state to state and camp to camp by the turbulences of the twentieth century. Originally from Austro-Hungarian Bukovina, he chose to speak German from the various languages spoken in his Jewish family home. He was a poet like his more famous compatriots Paul Celan and Rosa Ausländer. He eventually settled in West Germany in 1961, writing prose and poetry that was not published until this century. Kindheit was originally written in Bukarest in the late 1950s, and details his life in a large farming family up to 1920. His publisher, Rimbaud Verlag, has a good website with plenty of information on the book and his other works.
According to the prize jury, "Dollenmayer captures with great sensitivity and skill the lively, often poetic, sometimes ironic, always unexpected style of the original. To translate this text, Dollenmayer had to familiarize himself with the setting—rural Bucovina before, during, and just after World War I—and make sense of Rosenkranz’s elliptical and imaginative account of a childhood in which privation, cruelty, and danger might well have destroyed a less resilient spirit. Thanks to Dollenmayer, this extraordinary document is now accessible to readers who will find its perspective, language, and content fascinating."
Congratulations! Let's hope the prize drums up a little more attention for the book in the English-speaking world.