Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Schlegel Tieck Prize to Damion Searls

Ha! This time I have spelt Damion Searls' name correctly and shall congratulate him wholeheartedly on winning the Schlegel Tieck Prize for the best translation from German published in the United Kingdom of a “work of literary merit and general interest”. Deep breath. He got it for his rendering of Hans Keilson's Comedy in a Minor Key, which I haven't read. He's on a roll - remember when he got the Austrian Cultural Forum Translation Prize and I spelt his name wrong?

Anyway, it was awarded last night at a glitzy ceremony in the Royal Albert Hall attended by the Queen and Kate Middleton, followed by a lecture by Albert Einstein on the politics of translating nuclear physics. Other translation awards were presented there too, which you can read about in the TLS. There was champagne.

Now without in any way wishing to diminish Damion Searls' magnificent achievement, I feel I must point out that this is the fourth time running that the Schlegel Tieck Prize has gone to a translation of an old book (in this case dating from 1947) rather than contemporary literature. You can peruse the past winners here. I don't know whether that's symptomatic of what gets translated into English or of the extra special challenges posed by older writing, or indeed a sign of the judges' taste. You'll also notice a leaning towards all things Nazi-related, but I guess that's one of those things about German literature. A lot of it does have Nazis in it, and an even higher percentage of the German literature that gets published in English does, certainly.

Once I get on that prize committee I shall change all that, of course. Right after I open up my fantasy publishing house and start bringing out plenty of contemporary German writing. I hope it's not too much of a conflict of interests.

Anyway, congratulations, Damion Searls!

1 comment:

Tony said...

I had a quick glance at the list of previous winners (and runners up) - now I understand why you were so excited to be in the presence of Anthea Bell :)