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Celebrating The French American Foundation 2020 Translation Prize Winners

The French-American Foundation thas announced the winners of this year’s Translation Prize competition. Launched in 1986, the Translation Prize honors translators and celebrates excellence in translation from French into English in the categories of fiction and nonfiction. The prize also serves the purpose of promoting French literature in the United States and increasing the visibility of publishers who bring notable French works to American readers. The 2020 awards honor works published in the 2019 calendar year. The winners, chosen by a jury of professionals, will share a monetary award of $10,000 per category. The Foundation is acknowledging their accomplishments with an online celebration held on Thursday, September 10 at 1:00 pm EST over Zoom. The winners, joined with other notable literary professionals, will share thoughts on their work and take questions from interested members of the public.

Winners’ Celebration: RSVP

Fiction winner: Alyson Waters, for her translation of “A King Alone” by Jean Giono, New York Review Books

A King Alone is set in a remote Alpine village that is cut off from the world by rugged mountains and by long months when the ground is covered with snow and the heavens with cloud. One such winter, villagers begin mysteriously to disappear. Soon the village is paralyzed by terror, which gives way to relief and eager anticipation when the outsider Langlois arrives to investigate. What he discovers, however, will leave no one reassured, and his reappearance in the village a few years later, now assigned the task of guarding it from wolves, awakens those troubling memories. A man of few words, a regal manner, and military efficiency, Langlois baffles and fascinates the villagers, whose different responses to him shape Jean Giono’s increasingly charged narrative. This novel about a tiny community at the dangerous edge of things and a man of law who is a man alone could be described as a metaphysical Western. It unfolds with the uncanny inevitability and disturbing intensity of a dream.

Alyson Waters has translated the work of Vassilis Alexakis, Daniel Arasse, Albert Cossery, Louis Aragon, Emmanuel Bove, and Daniel Pennac, among several others. Her translation of Eric Chevillard’s Prehistoric Times won the 2012 Florence Gould/French-American Foundation Translation Prize. She has received a National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellowship, a PEN Translation Fund grant, and several residency grants in France and Canada. She teaches literary translation at Yale University and is the managing editor of Yale French Studies. Her translation of Jean-Patrick Manchette’s No Room at the Morgue is forthcoming from New York Review Books, which also published her translation of Jean Giono’s A King Alone, for which she is being awarded this prize now. She is a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Nonfiction winners Michael Loriaux and Jacob Levi, for their co-translation of “Murderous Consent: on the Accommodation of Violent Death” by Marc Crépon, Fordham University Press

Murderous Consent details our implication in violence we do not directly inflict but in which we are structurally complicit: famines, civil wars, political repression in far-away places, and war, as it’s classically understood. Marc Crépon insists on a bond between ethics and politics and attributes violence to our treatment of the two as separate spheres. We repeatedly resist the call to responsibility, as expressed by the appeal for the care and attention that their vulnerability enjoins. But Crépon argues that this resistance is not ineluctable, and the book searches for ways that enable us to mitigate it, through rebellion, kindness, irony, critique, and shame. Crépon delineates the contours of a possible/impossible ethicosmopolitics and calls for a more radical understanding of interpersonal responsibility. Murderous Consent works to redefine our global obligations, articulating anew what humanitarianism demands and what an ethically grounded political resistance might mean.

Michael Loriaux is Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University and founder and Director of Northwestern’s French Interdisciplinary Group. He also directs Northwestern’s Paris Program on Art, Literature, and Contemporary European Thought, offered in partnership with the University of Paris Sorbonne Nouvelle. He has written extensively on European unification, and translated into English Marc Crépon’s The Thought of Death and the Memory of War  (University of Minnesota Press). 

Jacob Levi is a scholar and translator of 20th Century European philosophy and literature. He is a PhD candidate in the Department of Comparative Thought and Literature at Johns Hopkins University, and a graduate of the École Normale Supérieure. He is currently in the final stages of his doctoral dissertation on Jewish intellectuals in Paris during the 1960s, entitled “The Adventure of the Book: Jabès, Derrida, Levinas.” Jacob’s research focuses on the history of phenomenology, philosophy of language, and modern Jewish thought, and his work has appeared in journals including Modern Language Notes, Implications Philosophiques, and Europe Now. He has also translated texts by philosophers including Jean-Luc Nancy, Alain Badiou, and Jacques Derrida.