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2021 AAWP X UWRF Translators’ Prize and Emerging Writers’ Prize Winners Announced

Posted: 15 October 2021

In partnership with the Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP), Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is proud to announce the winners of the 2021 AAWP X UWRF Translators’ Prize and Emerging Writers’ Prize. Congratulations to the winners and thank you to all that have submitted your work!

About AAWP x UWRF Translators’ Prize

Since 2008 the Festival has worked with a team of translators to publish its annual Bilingual Anthology of Indonesian Writing, and regularly features panels on the essential role translators play in opening our eyes to other cultures. “It’s long been a dream of ours to offer a prize for exceptional works of literary translation, so we’re thrilled to expand our commitment to global writing communities with the new Prize,” commented UWRF Founder and Director Janet DeNeefe. This prize is open to translators anywhere in the world.

Judges’ report:

The Winner of the 2021 AAWP x UWRF Translators’ Prize is White Moss by Irina Sadovina.

The fragment from Russian to English chosen is the opening of White Moss, a novel by Anna Nerkagi, a Nenets writer, novelist, and social activist from Siberia. The excerpt sets up the novel’s main event: a loveless wedding.  The translation has a strong rhythmic sense and pronounced cadence. Instead of long formal words rarely used in intimate everyday speech, the translator has chosen short, basic words that rhythmically force the reader to go slow, to weigh each simple word. As a consequence, the translation communicates a visceral feeling, a sense of urgency, a sensation of impending doom. The tone is serious, yet lyrical. From the first paragraph, the reader is acutely aware that they are about to cross some barrier and the prose elegantly crosses the barriers between ethnicities. The world of the novel is familiar, yet strange. In the translator’s statement, we read:

The biggest challenge was the terms that describe traditional lifeways and are associated in the Russian context with indigenous Northern peoples: for example, chum – a tent dwelling (pronounced ‘choom’), or narty – a long sleigh. I judged against using ‘indigenous-sounding’ terms in English (e.g., tipi), which would introduce cultural inaccuracies and exoticism. In the spirit of Nerkagi’s language – clear, not overburdened with ‘exotic’ detail – I opted to simply use ordinary English terms like ‘tent’ and ‘sleigh.

It seems to me that this was a wise decision: it gives rise to a familiar yet strange evocation of the setting. The statement also points out Nerkagi’s ‘extended metaphors reminiscent of Old Norse kennings, which in translation often result in beautiful alliteration.’ Transferring this poetic dimension into the target language is no easy task; it highlights the ethical dimension of this translation, one that was first advocated by Antoine Berman in les tours de babel (1985).

Curiously, there is a film adaptation of Nerkagi’s White Moss directed by Vladimir Tumaev with English subtitles, but no English translation of the novel exists yet.

Winner’s Bio:

Irina Sadovina is a translator from Yoshkar-Ola, Russia. She was shortlisted for the Academia Rossica Young Translators Award back in 2011, and she is now looking forward to getting back to translation in order to highlight works that reflect Russia’s incredible cultural diversity. She has a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Toronto and a PhD in Literature and Cultural Research (Folklore) from the University of Tartu. She is working as a University Teacher of Russian at the Modern Languages Teaching Centre at the University of Sheffield. Irina was selected for the prestigious Emerging Translator Mentorships Programme 2022.

Highly Commended:

Dante: The Faery and the Wizard by Alberta Adji

The translation excerpt introduces the story of Dante: The Faery and the Wizard by Alberta Natasia Adji to an anglophone audience. It portrays a boisterous young man-faery who has to leave his familiar surroundings to save his adopted family and ‘navigate … cultural exchange and assimilation in a magical society.’ The submission captures the protagonist’s fluid mental state as a shape-shifting faery in order to give the reader an intimate picture of the career of a teenage faery Kotick (who later calls himself Dante) as a young news apprentice based in London.

Collecting Butterflies by Kevin Windle

Collecting Butterflies by Sergei Aksakov was first published in 1859. The work is therefore in the public domain. The translation strives to reflect the perception of the author as a consummate stylist. I loved this translation, though on further consideration, decided the repetition of ‘that’ in the opening sentence spoilt the syntax and overall elegance of the rendition in English.

About AAWP x UWRF Emerging Writers’ Prize

The AAWP x UWRF Emerging Writers’ Prize is a publication pathway for emerging writers. The prize is open to fiction or poetry. Ubud Writers & Readers Festival is delighted to partner with the Australasian Association of Writing Programs (AAWP) to provide this publication pathway for emerging writers. Heartfelt thanks to the judges for managing the judging process with such integrity, and for so generously donating your time in the interests of emerging writers.

Judges’ report:

The Winner of the 2021 AAWP x UWRF Emerging Writers’ Prize is Ode to Ushas: This Time Let’s Get the Dawn Right by Soudhamini

Ode to Ushas styles itself as a narrative for cinematic virtual reality. It is the quirky story of a real, virtual and therefore ‘immanent’ character, Maya, made up by a virtual writer and virtually real plagiarist, Rafael. Though the narrative can be read in multiple ways, it plays on the meaning of Maya: the power by which the universe becomes manifest; the illusion of the phenomenal. Maya acts as a foil to Rafael and guides him towards truth through breaking up binaries in a dream within a dream. The narrative develops incrementally across genres and traverses borders of language, culture and reality, thereby addressing the theme of Mulat Sarira from different perspectives.

Winner’s Bio:

Soudhamini is a filmmaker, teacher and Fulbright scholar from India, currently doing a Practice based PhD in Cinematic VR at Deakin University, Melbourne. Thought is action, as is gesture, glance and even silence. Each of these categories are also modes of speech. This is the very grammar of classical Indian aesthetics – as well as of cinema as an audio-visual form. I have made many creative nonfiction films but have never published creative writing.  For a while I even believed the image and word were antithetical registers. But the AAWP and Meniscus seem to me a uniquely enabling and inclusive space for such work. 

Highly Commended

Pups by Joshua Lee Shimmen

Told from a teenager’s point of view and in a singular voice, this story recounts how a dingo pup is rescued against the background of family drama and released into the wild. It is set in the present with flashbacks to the protagonist’s past. These are triggered by memories of what her father does to pups. It is a story of great vividness, compassion and empathy heightened by insightful characterisation and loving evocation of the setting.

Calcaneus by Elizabeth Walton

This is a sophisticated story told by Sal, a fourteen-year-old whose body image and self are out of joint by extending the calcaneus metaphor. The calcaneus, or heel bone, articulates the cuboid bone of the foot and the talus bone of the ankle and the Achilles tendon is attached to it. The narrative is pulled by this logic, evoking as it does the dysfunctional relationship between mother and daughter, their respective ambivalence as well as Sal’s moral dilemma.