Translating Spanish has suddenly become profitable … very profitable


Man after my own heart...

Proposition #1:  Translation is notoriously unheralded and underpaid.  Proposition #2:  Although Spanish is pretty much the United States’ second language, there’s tons of literature from the Spanish-speaking world that never makes it into English.

With those two statements in mind, this is cool news indeed:

A new award bearing the name of Spanish-born Mexican author, translator and poet Tomás Segovia (1927-2011) has been created to honor outstanding work in literary translation, Mexican cultural officials said.

The prize recognizes translations that “bring the Hispanic literary tradition to other languages,” National Culture and Arts Council, or Conaculta, president Consuelo Saizar said in a press conference Wednesday in this western Mexican city.

The honor carries a cash prize of $100,000 and is financed by Conaculta in partnership with Fondo de Cultura Economica – Mexico’s leading publishing house – and the Guadalajara International Book Fair, where this year’s award ceremony will take place in November.

In alternating years, the award will honor the work of professionals who translate from Spanish into another language and those who translate from other languages into Spanish, Saizar said.

That’s right. This is a hundred thousand smackeroos, which makes it about the biggest literary cash prize anywhere.  “This is an awesome thing,” according to Booktrade, reassuring us that it’s not always about money.

It’s about money.  M.A.Orthofer at The Literary Saloon is over the moon, and rightly so:

Yes, a translation prize that pays out $100,000.

translation prize that merits inclusion in the Wikipedia list of the world’s richest literary prizes.

Sure, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award pays out €25,000 to the translator (into English) — if the winning book is a translation. The American Best Translated Book Award pays out $5,000. But $100,000 ? That is real money, and pretty much unheard of for an annual translation award.

(Of course, in the US the ‘major’ literary prizes — Pulitzer, National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle — can get away with paying out between nothing and $10,000 (it’s apparently all about the prestige …).)
Yeah, I’m impressed. And jealous of the Spanish-speaking world, where even in these economically supposedly so troubled times money can be found (with government involvement !) for a prize like this.

I’ve always loved Mexico.  Now I love it more.

Thank you, Tomás Segovia, wherever you are.


Tags: , ,

Comments are closed.