English PEN’s has supported 250 books in translation since the inception of its Writers in Translation programme in 2006.
The programme has supported a diverse list, including books translated from 47 languages, with authors from 75 different countries featured. Genres range from poetry to non-fiction, children’s literature and literary fiction.
The first supported book was Anna Politkovskaya’s groundbreaking Putin’s Russia (translated by Arch Tait). Books also include the International Foreign Fiction Prize winners The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck, translated by Susan Bernofsky (Portobello Books) and The Iraqi Christ by Hassan Blasim, translated by Jonathan Wright (Comma Press), the 2017 International Dublin Literary Award winner A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa, translated by Daniel Hahn (Harvill Secker) and several titles that were shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize.
Since its inception the programme has seen a remarkable growth in the range of languages supported, with recent titles included lesser-translated languages such as Thai, Belarusian, Farsi and Basque. There is also a welcome upward trend of women writers being translated into English. The programme has been an important contributor to the ongoing growth in the translated literature sector.
At the heart of the programme is the financial support PEN offers to publishers aiming to publish literature in translation. The PEN Translates grant has run since 2012 with support from the Arts Council. The grant aims to support translation costs of up to 100%. PEN Promotes, a grant supporting the promotion of books in translation, ran from 2006 to 2016 with support from Bloomberg.
Antonia Byatt, Director of English PEN, said: I’m so proud PEN Translates has brought a much greater variety of fantastic writing to British readers. The programme has transformed the literary landscape in the UK. English PEN has long been a champion of lesser know voices, and the translation programme is a vital part of this.’
Tasja Dorkofikis, Arts Council, said: ‘Publishing translated literature is essential to a vibrant literary culture and it is often only with the support of grants that translated books can be published in the UK. The PEN Writers in Translation fund, sponsored by the Arts Council and run with great success and commitment by English PEN, is instrumental in the recent increase in the numbers and diversity of books from other languages appearing in British bookshops. Long may this growth in translated literature readers and openness to the world continue!’
All PEN supported books are showcased on the World Bookshelf website, in partnership with Foyles. Original essays by PEN supported writers are regularly featured on PEN Transmissions, PEN’s online zine.
To celebrate, English PEN is hosting Alia Trabucco Zerán, author of The Remainder, translated by Sophie Hughes (And Other Stories) at the PEN Salon at London Book Fair on Tuesday at 11am.
English PEN will also mark this milestone at Brighton Festival with a panel discussion chaired by Daniel Hahn on May 6.