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From the Archives: Svetlana Alexievich, Wioletta Greg, Prabda Yoon

In honor of the inaugural TA First Translation Prize.

We were so excited to see all of the talented translators and amazing projects shortlisted for the inaugural TA First Translation Prize. As we all await the announcement of the winner, we thought it’d be fun to dive into our archives for a closer look at a few of these projects.

Secondhand Time by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Bela Shayevich

In September of 2016, Senior Editor Scott Esposito talked with Shayevich about the challenges presented by Alexievich’s unique style, which consists almost entirely of interviews she conducts with ordinary people. In this wide-ranging conversation, Shayevich delved into the challenges of translating from 70 years of different kinds of speech from across the immense geography of Russia, discussed the necessity of footnotes in this project, critiques of Alexievich for fudging her facts, and what it was like to wake up and suddenly find out the author you were translating had just won a Nobel Prize. Listen here.

Swallowing Mercury by Wioletta Greg, translated by Eliza Marciniak

In September of last year, we were thrilled to host an event in honor of Transit Books’ publication of Swallowing Mercury. Author Wioletta Greg was there to discuss the book, largely based on her own youth in a close-knit, agricultural community in 1980s Poland. Listen here.

The Sad Part Was by Prabda Yoon, translated by Mui Poopoksakul

We were thrilled to see this book on the shortlist! Back in 2010, we published Prabda Yoon’s story “Marat by the Sea”, translated by Mui Poopoksakul, as an Online Exclusive. If you haven’t read this story, take a moment and do so right now. And I think it’s fair to say that this story has one of the best first paragraphs of all time:

Before it’s all too late, may I tell you, dear readers, that my name is not Marut? And I’m not sitting by the sea at all. If you want me to confess, I must admit that I don’t know my own name or what kind of landscape surrounds me. I might be standing in front of a train station. I might be walking in an untamed jungle. I might be sleeping in a spaceship that’s traveling to a faraway galaxy. The possibilities in that regard are limitless. I’m sorry—I might not even be a person. You might be reading the confession of a booger. Who knows?

Congratulations to all those shortlisted! And thanks again to Daniel Hahn for creating this new prize to honor emerging translators’ first full-book translations.