Source : Times of India
The National Book Awards in the US lists itself among one of the most prestigious literary prizes to be won. It began with the hope “to celebrate the best of American literature” in 1950 and starting this year the National Book Foundation will recognize works in translation, opening up a distinctly American literary award to writers working in other languages.
The prize will be given jointly to authors and translators, and will be limited to fiction and nonfiction works by living authors that are published in the United States only. However, international authors who write in English won’t be eligible.
The new category is a result of a decision that was made concorantly by the foundation’s board of directors, in an effort to draw attention to works in translation, which are often neglected by American readers and publishers.
Lisa Lucas, the executive director of the National Book Foundation states, “This is an opportunity for us to influence how visible books in translation” and the “less we know about the rest of the world, the worse off we are.”
It is not the first time the National Book Awards has broadened its scope. In the 1960s and 1970s, an array of new categories were added, including prizes in science, philosophy and religion, history and biography, arts and letters, contemporary thought, autobiography, first novel, original paperback and children’s books, as well as a prize for translation. Then, in 1986, the organization scaled back drastically, to just two awards, for fiction and nonfiction. It later added poetry and young people’s literature.
Despite of a growing number of publishing houses that specialize in publishing works in translation and international literature — including Europa Editions, Archipelago Books, AmazonCrossing and Tilted Axis, which publishes contemporary Asian literature, mainly by women — Translated Literature still accounts for a tiny percentage of books published in the United States. Although International authors like Elena Ferrante, Haruki Murakami, Karl Ove Knausgaard and Han Kang have made it big among the American readers, there is still a nagging notion that Translated Literature doesn’t sell well in the United States.
The new translation prize marks the first time the foundation has added a category in more than two decades, and in doing so, the National Book Foundation may restore some balance, by opening an American award to overseas authors.
David Steinberger, chairman of the board of directors of the National Book Foundation added, “It goes to the mission of the organization, which is at its essence, to increase the impact of great books on the culture.”