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ROSSICA YOUNG TRANSLATORS AWARD 2013

 
We are pleased to announced that the recipient of this year's Rossica Young Translators Award is Pola Lem from Haverford College, who translated an extract from Marina Stepnova’s Женщины Лазаря! Congratulations Pola!

 
Winner’s comment: 

 


I am honored and delighted to accept the award this year. Working with Marina Stepnova's writing was a pleasure. I chose the passage from The Women of Lazarus because I was struck by its style. It was the most difficult piece I've translated. Stepnova often uses long, syntactically complicated sentences, made more challenging by the idiomatic expressions that pepper her writing (these resulted in more than one amusing mistranslation). Her prose is beautiful as it is challenging. Stepnova's language is evocative and her sentences, full of texture. For example, I loved the description of Chaldonov's home, an "enormous professorial apartment bathed in twilight [which] creaked and smelled appetizingly of books in good bindings and proper home-cooked suppers." I hope I will be able to translate more of Stepnova's work in the future. 
I want to thank Professor Sibelan Forrester at Swarthmore College, who has supported and encouraged me throughout this process. I am also grateful to Alla Podolsky, for shedding light on some confounding Russian phrases, and to Professor Marina Rojavin, for her dry wit and constant inspiration.

 
RYTA 2013 Shortlist:
 
- Daria Wallace, University College London (Boris Akunin)
- Nick Jones, University of Bristol (Marina Stepnova)
- Pola Lem, Haverford College (Marina Stepnova)
- Sarah Vitali (Marina Stepnova)
- Robert Daly, University of Oxford (Boris Akunin)
- Katherine Armstrong, Danielle Craig, Joshua Heath, Christopher Heren, Rita Lindsay, Charles Littlewood, Helene Mertens, David Parke, Jake Perl and Henry Pyke, University of Cambridge (Eduard Limonov)

This year, the judges decided that, as well as an overall winner, two other entries from the shortlist were worthy of special commendation. These entries were:

 
Special judges' commendation:
 
- Robert Daly, University of Oxford (Boris Akunin)
- Katherine Armstrong, Danielle Craig, Joshua Heath, Christopher Heren, Rita Lindsay, Charles Littlewood, Helene Mertens, David Parke, Jake Perl and Henry Pyke, University of Cambridge (Eduard Limonov)

Thank you to everyone who took part in the Rossica Young Translators Award this year, and we look forward to next year’s prize!

 
Judges’ comments: 
 
Daniel M. Jaffe
Santa Barbara, California
 
Judging this year’s RYTA submissions was both a challenge and a delight.  A delight because I was heartened to read so many entries reflecting finer translation work than I was capable of accomplishing during my university years.  The challenge came from trying to blend the very range of values that I’m ever juggling when engaged in translation myself: at which moments should a translator privilege lexical accuracy and faithfulness to Russian language cadence and syntax? When should poetic-emotional-psychological equivalence in English take precedence if such equivalence is achieved at the expense of variation from the literal Russian? How much knowledge of Russian culture and history should one assume that the average English-language reader possesses? To which extent can a translator integrate cultural gloss without betraying the voice of the Russian original's narrator?  What’s more, given that RYTA participants were offered three excerpts from which to choose, how compare and rank translations of three different texts of varying stylistic complexity? I found the process of judging to be as daunting as the process of translation itself. I’m grateful to Academia Rossica for granting me the privilege of participating in this year’s award process, and to all the entrants for providing reassurance that the pool of future Russian literary translators is rich and broad. 
 

Rosamund Bartlett
University of Oxford

It has been exciting to see the emergence of so many talented new translators amongst the entrants for this year’s award. The quality of the translations submitted correspondingly made for difficult judging, however, particularly since the selected extracts differed greatly from each other, each posing their own set of linguistic, stylistic and narrative challenges.  And none of the authors represented this year are easy to translate, not least the deceptively simple Boris Akunin, who attracted the most number of entries by a considerable margin.  This is contemporary literature, but with a pre-revolutionary setting, and the most successful translations submitted were those whose tone and vocabulary managed to evoke the world of late imperial Russia while simultaneously catching the vein of delightful irony which runs through the gripping story of Erast Fandorin’s latest investigation. The extract from Marina Stepnova’s novel is set immediately after the 1917 Revolution, and bristles with cultural references which even many young Russians would find obscure.  This year’s intrepid young translators coped very well with her distinctive writing style, which is sophisticated and lyrical and informal by turns.  Stepnova’s prose demands a translator who can be as creative with language as she is and there were some wonderful turns of phrase in each of the translations submitted.  It is not surprising, meanwhile, that Eduard Limonov has turned to recent events from his own life in his fiction, as they read like a novel.  Limonov has strong political views, and a strong literary voice, captured with great fidelity in the translations submitted.  Transposing contemporary conversational Russian (the bulk of this selected text consists of a conversation) requires enormous skill, and it was clear to see in the translations submitted how much work had gone into getting its nuances exactly right. 

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