John Dryden Translation Competition 2010

July 6th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

I am well chuffed to report that for André Pieyre de Mandiargues’ short story “Le pain rouge” [The Red Loaf], I’ve won first prize in this year’s edition of its annual John Dryden Translation Competition,  sponsored by the British Comparative Literature Association (BCLA) and the British Centre for Literary Translation (BCLT) at the University of East Anglia. This is sort of amazing, since the contest was open to translations from all languages, periods, and genres: poetry, prose, drama. I will be at the University of Kent in Canterbury tonight for the prize ceremony and reading at the 2010 BCLA conference. The conference theme this year is “Archive,” and the writer guest is Dubravka Ugresic.

Funny coincidence, ’cause when Chad Post (Ugresic’s US publisher) interviewed me last fall at ALTA for his “Making the Translator Visible” series,  I said this was the hardest piece I’d done to date. It’s from the 1951 collection Le soleil des loups, or The Sun of the Wolves, an old peasant expression for the moon, which oversees magic and mayhem.

Mandiargues is one of the more hallucinatory, phantasmagoric writers I’ve worked on, affecting almost finicky dandyism when it comes to word choice, and lavish with arch, luxurious descriptions beneath which lurk palpable longing and menace. His particular brand of the fantastic was known for its brazen eroticism and manifest affiliation with the work of the Surrealists and Decadents.  He was a friend of Paz and Cortazar in Paris. Calder & Boyars published his 1959 collection Feu de braise in a 1971 translation by April Fitzlyon. The 1963 novel La Motocyclette, alternately titled The Girl on the Motorcycle, appeared in two different translations, and was made into a film in 1967, as was his Goncourt-winning La Marge (The Margin, translated by Richard Howard).

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