The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) announced the winners of the 2023 National Translation Awards in Poetry and Prose earlier this month at its annual conference. For the Poetry Award, the judges selected Robyn Creswell’s translation from Arabic of Iman Mersal’s The Threshold. Nguyễn An Lý received the Prose Award for her translation from Vietnamese of Thuận’s Chinatown.
According to the ALTA, the awards program — now in its 25th year — recognizes translators “who have made an outstanding contribution to literature in English by masterfully recreating the artistic force of a book of consummate quality.” Each award comes with a $4,000 prize, and translators of any nationality can be considered.
“ALTA is incredibly proud to recognize Nguyễn An Lý and Robyn Creswell for their masterful translations from Vietnamese and Arabic, respectively,” said Executive Director Elisabeth Jaquette. “We celebrate these two winners, as well as all the translators, authors, and presses who expand the landscape of literature available in English. As readers, and as members of a global community, we are all richer for their skill and artistry.”
Robyn Creswell — an assistant professor of comparative literature at Yale University and the poetry editor of literary magazine The Paris Review — received the Poetry Award for his Arabic-to-English translation of The Threshold, a collection of witty and emotional poems going back 30 years by Egyptian poet Iman Mersal. Judges Pauline Fan, Heather Green, and Shook state, “It is in his straightforward, lyrical rendition … that the translator succeeds.”
Meanwhile, the Prose Award went to Nguyễn An Lý, an independent translator and cofounder of the Zzz Review website. The winning translation is Lý’s first into English, as she mostly translates from English into Vietnamese. Judges Natascha Bruce, Shelley Frisch, Jason Grunebaum, Sawad Hussain, and Lytton Smith praised her translation of Chinatown — a suspenseful yet pensive novel by author Thuận — for its “sweeping, melodic phrasing.”