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Judges announce winner of 2021 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize

14 June 2021

Congratulations to Nichola Smalley, the winner of the Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize 2021, for her translation of Andrzej Tichý’s Wretchedness. The Oxford-Weidenfeld Prize is for book-length literary translations into English from any living European language. It aims to honour the craft of translation, and to recognise its cultural importance. It was founded by Lord Weidenfeld and funded by New College, The Queen’s College and St Anne’s College, Oxford.  To accompany the award of the Prize, St Anne’s and Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation Research Centre (OCCT) have uploaded videos in which the shortlisted translators discuss or read from their respective translations. To see the shortlisted translators discuss and read from their work, click here.

The judges' citation for the winner:

The first of Andrzej Tichý’s novels to be translated from Swedish into English, Wretchedness begins with an encounter between a cellist and a homeless man who approaches him for money and cigarettes. A throwaway comment sparks a series of recollections from a youth spent in the economically deprived housing estates of Malmö and in underground clubs and warehouses from Hamburg to Glasgow. Opposing worlds collide and enmesh as the narrative interweaves memories of conversations between old friends over video games and at drug-fuelled parties and present-day discussions with colleagues about music theory on the way to a classical concert in Copenhagen. Nichola Smalley’s translation seamlessly negotiates the different voices and registers of this polyphonic narrative, maintaining a blistering intensity and dynamism from beginning to end. The eight paragraphs making up the novel echo the powerful vibrations and dense notes of the concert hall performance which threaten to overwhelm and consume the narrator in the build-up to the dramatic closing lines. The novel critiques academics and journalists who seek to represent the lives of those marginalised by society in their sanitised dark poetry – ‘gutter tourists, on the hunt for the next aesthetic wonder’ – and searches for a tone in which these experiences can be voiced.

Please visit www.queens.ox.ac.uk/oxford-weidenfeld-prize to read the citations for all the short-listed texts.

book cover for Wretchedness