The National Book Awards — which celebrate the best in American literature — are going international.
The National Book Foundation this year will honor a great work of fiction or nonfiction translated into English and published in the United States.
The new $10,000 award will honor both the author and translator. It’s a recognition of the creativity that goes both into penning the original work and also into giving it new life in another language.
For many international authors, attracting American readers is important for both the sales and influence. The U.S. publishing industry — print and digital — is the world’s largest, with sales of $37 billion in 2017, according to the U.S. International Trade Administration.
The National Book Award for Translated Literature joins awards in the categories of Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry and Young People’s Literature.
Only the works of living authors and translators will be considered. Nominations are now being accepted. The awards will be presented in the fall.
“We now have the opportunity to recognize exceptional books that are written anywhere in the world, and to encourage new voices and perspectives to become part of our national discourse,” said David Steinberger, the foundation chairman.
Expanding readers’ horizons
Britain’s Don Bartlett, translator of Norwegian author Karl Ove Knausgård’s six-volume autobiographical novel My Struggle, spoke about the art of translating to the Los Angeles Review of Books in 2016. “You are originating when you translate; you’re creating, you’re co-writing, you’re creating something in English from another language,” he said.
American novelists, poets, historians and others have received National Book Awards every year since 1950. The roster includes William Faulkner, Flannery O’Connor, Philip Roth, Annie Proulx and other luminaries.