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Society of Authors’ First Translation Prize 2023 Shortlist

By Jane Bentham, Lucy Clark and Rob Tomlinson


The Society of Authors’ TA First Translation Prize is an annual prize awarded to a debut literary translation published in the UK and Ireland. Supported by the British Council, this prize is shared between a translator and their editor, with the winner receiving £3,000. The winner of the TA First Translation Prize will be announced at the Translation Prizes ceremony in February 2024. If you need new translated fiction to add to your TBR list, here is a selection of the books shortlisted for the prize!


The Opposite of a Person, by Lieke Marsman, translated from Dutch by Sophie Collins and edited by Marigold Atkey


The Opposite of a Person is the debut novel of established Dutch poet Lieke Marsman, and has attracted praise for its unusual, genre-defying form, as well as its expression of the existential realities and preoccupations of the modern world. A combination of fiction, essays and poetry, the book follows climatologist Ida as she begins an internship in the Italian Alps and comes face-to-face with the devastating impact humanity has had on the climate. Learning about plans to demolish a hydroelectric dam at risk of collapse, Ida grapples with the complexities of the climate crisis and humanity’s reluctance to take action. 


Of Saints and Miracles by Manuel Astur, translated from Spanish by Clare Wadie and edited by Gesche Ipsen


This critically acclaimed novel, which also won the 2021 Peirene Stevns Translation Prize, is a slim thriller exploring family closeness and betrayal, that will stay with the reader long after its conclusion.


Of Saints and Miracles follows the life of Manuel in the northern Spanish province of Asturias, growing up poor in a rural community, he dotes on his younger brother and protects his mother from his father’s drunken rages, he settles into a calm, bucolic and solitary existence as a farmer. However, when later in life his brother returns and asks the illiterate Manuel to sign some papers, his peace is shattered as he realises he has forfeited his right to the farm and finds himself landless, responding with a moment of uncontrolled anger. He then flees to the rugged countryside surrounding the house, taking refuge in high peaks and abandoned villages, eventually becoming a cult hero as he evades the authorities.


Chinatown, by Thuận, translated from Vietnamese by Nguyễn An Lý and edited by Deborah Smith


Originally published in 2005, Chinatown follows the interior monologue of a Vietnamese woman as she is stuck on a train in Paris and is forced to dwell on her memories of Vietnam and her current experiences as an immigrant in France. Many of her thoughts revolve around her Chinese ex-husband who faced discrimination in the aftermath of the Sino-Chinese War and has disappeared for many years. Spanning different continents, histories and cultures, this work stands out in its fluid and evocative use of prose which mirrors the protagonist’s thought process, through a continuous repetition of words, memories and phrases. 


A Woman’s Battles and Transformations by Édouard Louis, translated from French by Tash Aw and edited by Ellie Steel


One day, Édouard Louis finds a photograph of his mother from twenty years ago: a happy young woman, full of hopes and dreams. But growing up, Édouard only remembers the years of hardship his mother experienced, falling pregnant at the age of seventeen and suffering from a number of abusive relationships. This lookback on Édouard’s mother’s life reckons with the cruel systems that govern our lives – and with the possibility of escape. It is a sensitive portrayal of a woman’s struggle in this world and her journey of self-discovery.


This World Does Not Belong to Us by Natalia García Freire, translated from Spanish by Victor Meadowcroft and edited by Juliet Mabey and Polly Hatfield


Having been expelled from his house as a young boy by two strangers who arrived to work for his father and took over the land, Lucas returns as an adult to exact revenge and reclaim what is rightfully his. Coming home after many years he finds that the house has been left to rot and the once beautiful garden, including his mother’s grave, is overgrown with weeds. Lucas turns to an unlikely source for help, the subterranean world of insects and spiders, offering him a glimmer of hope from the most unlikely of places. 


Weaving together the present and the past in lyrical prose, Natalia García Freire is an exciting new voice emerging from Ecuador into the Latin American literary scene.



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