Friday, October 05, 2007

John Dryden Translation Competition

Readers of this blog may be interested to learn about the following competition:

The John Dryden Translation Competition

This is an annual competition, run by the British Comparative Literature Association, and sponsored by the British Centre for Literary Translation.

You can enter a prose, poetry or drama text translated from any language into English, but it must not be longer than 25 pages. An entry to the competition consists of the original text, your translation, and an entry form. The latter (with the full competition rules) is available on the competition website at or can be obtained by post from the organiser, Dr Jean Boase-Beier, School of Literature and Creative Writing, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ.

Entries cost £7 for one, £12 for 2 or £16 for 3. There are prizes of £350 (First Prize), £200 (Second Prize) and £100 (Third Prize), and entries may receive commendations. The competition judges are Peter France, Stuart Gillespie, Amanda Hopkinson, Elinor Shaffer and Glyn Pursglove, and they are assisted by a large number of specialist readers.

The closing date for the competition is in February each year; reading then takes place during the spring and the judges usually meet in June to make their decision. Announcements are made straight after the judges’ meeting, and there is a prize-giving event every year in the summer or autumn, to which winners are invited.

Entries received after the closing date will go forward to the following year’s competition, so it is possible to enter at any time of the year, using the form for the current year.


Eric Dickens said...

I think I'll have a shot in February 2008. I translate from several languages, so using a kind of scatter-gun approach, I might even win something. Another lottery, like the Nobel, but somewhat more modestly funded, I feel.

I love the way that it's cheaper by five quid if you submit three entries. The winner of the Nobel doesn't have to worry about such niceties...

B.J. Epstein said...

I went to the prize ceremony this year (it was part of the BCLA conference I was presenting at) and it was quite nice to hear the winners read from their translations.

There ought to be more such prizes for translation work, I think. There are many creative writing competitions, but they rarely include translation.

Good luck, Eric!

Best wishes,

Eric Dickens said...

I agree that translation is a badly underrated and ignored activity in Britain.

My fellow Brits regard you as something of a freak if you have anything to do with languages.

The BCLT is underfunded and quite probably under-staffed. A decade ago they used to bring foreign translators to Britain and they could stay for a month at a time to translate and pick up the atmosphere of Britain. At least two Estonians I know stayed in residence at UEA. English translators were also taken on board, and I met people from India, Germany, France, Hungary, etc., during my stay. That's all packed up now.

The whole BCLT organisation needs more funding and more visibility in the books pages and the cultural press. It could also liaise more with the TA, and be more creative about obtaining EU grants for expanded activity. This should, of course, include more readings, workshops and other inclusive activities.

The problem with competitions is that you have a big winner, two lesser ones, and the rest of the entries are more or less forgotten. Competitions do encourage people to translate things, but there should be more discussion in Britain. Competitions are already creating a pecking order, right from the start. Workshops, on the other hand, do generate discussion.

B.J. Epstein said...

Thanks for your comments on this important topic, Eric. I think it's pretty undeniable that English-speaking countries do not rate translation highly, and therefore do not support it financially. However, what's also sad is that some other countries are starting to minimize their support for translated literature as well (witness the recent debates about translation in Sweden, for example).
The problem with workshops is that the people who attend are likely to already be translators or involved with translation in some other way, so that does not necessarily get the word out to other people. What can be done about that? How can we convince more publishers to take a chance on translated literature by publishing and promoting it, and how can we convince readers that "foreign" books are worth reading?

Best wishes,