For the second time, Berlin's House of World Cultures has awarded its International Literature Prize, this time to Marie NDiaye and her translator Claudia Kalscheuer for Drei starke Frauen (Trois femmes puissantes).
The jury wrote of the translation:
Claudia Kalscheuer has succeeded in depicting this finely tared, half nightmarish, half surreal rhythm in German. She follows the movements of the original French sentences very precisely, yet at the decisive points chooses möbius loops, sets inversions, reduces the number of alliterations without abandoning their poetic moment even remotely, thus inscribing the German linguistic melody in her translation, charging it with exactly the same dense, disturbing rhythm that marks out the original. And that is a masterly achievement.
I have two things to say, by which I certainly don't mean to detract from the nominated books in any way.
As Michael Orthofer pointed out at the Literary Saloon, the award isn't really terribly international in terms of language: all the books were translated from either English or French. As so often (and it suprises me that the House of World Cultures is playing this game), "international" in Germany means where you or indeed your parents or grandparents were born, not where you are now and what language you work in.
Or is the narrow field a symptom of the fact that books originally written in other languages aren't making it into German? Because as the shortlist stands, this is an award for ethnic minority writers based in France or the United States (or in NDiaye's case, Berlin). I have nothing against that, but it's hardly the same as international.