Photo: Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach Photo: Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach

The annual Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize is awarded each spring to honor an outstanding literary translation from German into English published in the USA the previous year. The translator of the winning translation will receive US $10,000. The prize was established in 1996 and was administered by the Goethe-Institut Chicago until 2014. Funded by the German government, the Prize has been administered by the Goethe-Institut New York since 2015.

Prizewinner 2020

Wolff Prize Talk

On May 9, 2020 we hosted Translating Unconventional Narratives: A Conversation with 2020 Wolff Prizewinner Philip Boehm, a special online conversation between Philip Boehm and jury chairwoman Dr. Shelley Frisch. You can watch a recording of the talk on either this page or our YouTube channel.

Shortlist 2020

Jury Chair Shelley Frisch provided the following statement: "The jury is pleased to announce this year’s shortlist for the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize. With our planet beset by unparalleled medical, political, and environmental challenges, many of us are looking to literature more than ever as a means of moving beyond our quotidian realities.

This shortlist features a panoply of subjects—from a sweeping regional history to a doctor tracking a medical enigma, from a fresh approach to a canonical novel to an intriguing chapter in the life of a canonical writer to a haunting portrait of an imprisoned revolutionary—all brought together here by their sparkling translations into English.

We congratulate translators Joel Agee, Philip Boehm, David Dollenmayer, and Elizabeth Janik on their stellar work, and invite readers to delve into the intriguing and engaging works they have recreated. In May we will be announcing the winner of the prize, so stay tuned!"

Jury: Shelley Frisch (Chair), Bettina Abarbanell, John Hargraves, Susan Harris, Damion Searls

Joel Agee © Sharon Smith

Joel Agee

For his translation of Robert Musil's Agathe, or the Forgotten Sister (New York Review of Books, 2019)

Philip Boehm © Traci Lavois Thiebaud

Philip Boehm

For his translations of Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon (Scribner, 2019)
Christine Wunnicke's The Fox and Dr. Shimamura (New Directions, 2019)

David Dollenmayer © Linda Pape

David Dollenmayer

For his translation of Martin Walser's A Man in Love (Arcade Publishing, 2019)

Elizabeth Janik © Dyan Witt

Elizabeth Janik

For her translation of Marie-Janine Calic's The Great Cauldron: A History of Southeastern Europe (Harvard University Press, 2019)

Submissions 2020


Ingeborg Bachmann

Translated by Philip Boehm
New Directions, 2019

The Storyteller Essays

Walter Benjamin
The Storyteller Essays

Translated by Tess Lewis
New York Review of Books, 2019

Samalio Pardulus

Otto Julius Bierbaum
Samalio Pardulus

Translated by W. C. Bamberger
Wakefield Press, 2019

Winterlust: Finding Beauty in the Fiercest Season

Bernd Brunner
Winterlust: Finding Beauty in the Fiercest Season

Translated by Mary Catherine Lawler
Greystone Books, 2019

Great Cauldron

Marie-Janine Calic
The Great Cauldron: A History of Southeastern Europe

Translated by Elizabeth Janik
Harvard University Press, 2019

The Pope's Left Hand

Friedrich Christian Delius
The Pope's Left Hand

Translated by Robert A. Cantrick
Noumena Press, 2019

Faust, Part I

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Faust: A Tragedy, Part I

Translated by Eugene Stelzig
Bucknell University Press, 2019

Jesus and Judaism

Martin Hengel and Anna Maria Schwemer
Jesus and Judaism

Translated by Wayne Coppins
Baylor University Press, 2019

German Officer in Occupied Paris

Ernst Jünger
A German Officer in Occupied Paris

Translated by Thomas S. Hansen and Abby J. Hansen
Columbia University Press, 2019

The Storyteller

Pierre Jarawan
The Storyteller

Translated by Sinéad Crowe and Rachel McNicholl
World Editions, 2019

Darkness at Noon

Arthur Koestler
Darkness at Noon

Translated by Philip Boehm
Scribner, 2019

Autobiography of Solomon Maimon

Solomon Maimon
The Autobiography of Solomon Maimon: The Complete Translation

Translated by Paul Reitter
Princeton University Press, 2019

Women's History in the Age of Reformation

Johannes Meyer
Women's History in the Age of Reformation

Translated by Claire Taylor Jones
Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2019

God's Body

Christoph Markschies
God's Body

Translated by Alexander Johannes Edmonds
Baylor University Press, 2019

Agathe, Or the Forgotten Sister

Robert Musil
Agathe, Or the Forgotten Sister

Translated by Joel Agee
New York Review of Books, 2019


Gregor von Rezzori

Translated by David Dollenmayer
New York Review of Books, 2019

One Another

Monique Schwitter
One Another

Translated by Tess Lewis
Persea Books, 2019

Käsebier Takes Berlin

Gabriele Tergit
Käsebier Takes Berlin

Translated by Sophie Duvernoy
New York Review of Books, 2019

A Man in Love

Martin Walser
A Man in Love

Translated by David Dollenmayer
Arcade Publishing, 2019

Secret Wisdom of Nature

Peter Wohlleben
The Secret Wisdom of Nature

Translated by Jane Billinghurst
Greystone Books, 2019

The Fox and Dr. Shimamura

Christine Wunnicke
The Fox and Dr. Shimamura

Translated by Philip Boehm
New Directions, 2019

Guidelines for Publishers

American publishers are invited to submit six copies of a published translation from the German language into English to the following address:

Goethe-Institut New York
Helen and Kurt Wolff Prize
Attn: Dean Whiteside
30 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003

The deadline for submissions was January 31, 2020. Please provide us with your contact information in the online submission form so that we may anticipate delivery of your submission and follow up with you as necessary.

The translation must have been published (not only distributed) in Canada or the US in 2019. Entries may be fiction or non-fiction and may include: novels, novellas, short stories, plays, poetry, biographies, essays and correspondences. Translators awarded the prize in the last seven years are disqualified from consideration this year.

All submitted titles will be listed on the Goethe-Institut website. A five-member jury will select a short list of 3 nominated titles in early April, with the winning translation to be announced by mid-April 2020.

The winning translator and publishing house will be invited to the award ceremony in New York, to take place in June 2020.

Dean Whiteside, Translation Grant Program Liaison

About the Prize

Damion Searls

Damion Searls received the 2019 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize for his translation of Uwe Johnson's Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl.

Publisher: New York Review Books, 2018

Isabel Fargo Cole

Isabel Fargo Cole received the 2018 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize for her translation of Wolfgang Hilbig's Old Rendering Plant.

Publisher: Two Lines Press, 2017

Charlotte Collins

Charlotte Collins received the 2017 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize for her translation of Robert Seethaler's A Whole Life.

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016

Year Recipients
2019 Damion Searls
for Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl von Uwe Johnson (New York Review Books)
2018 Isabel Fargo Cole
for Old Rendering Plant by Wolfgang Hilbig (Two Lines Press)
2017 Charlotte Collins
for A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
2016 Daniel Bowles
for Imperium: A Fiction of the South Seas by Christian Kracht (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
2015 Catherine Schelbert
for Flametti, or The Dandyism of the Poor by Hugo Ball (Wakefield Press)
2014 Shelley Frisch
for Kafka: The Years of Insight by Reiner Stach (Princeton University Press)
2013 Philip Boehm
for An Ermine in Czernopol by Gregor von Rezzori (New York Review Books)
2012 Burton Pike
for Isle of the Dead by Gerhard Meier (Dalkey Archive Press)
2011 Jean M. Snook
for The Distand Sound by Gert Jonke (Dalkey Archive Press)
2010 Ross Benjamin
for Speak, Nabokov by Michael Maar (Verso)
2009 John Hargraves
for The Executor – A Comedy of Letters by Michael Krüger (Harcourt)
2008 David Dollenmeyer
for Childhood. An Autobiographical Fragment by Moses Rosenkranz (Syracuse University Press)
2007 Peter Constantine
for The Bird is a Raven by Benjamin Lebert (Knopf)
2006 Susan Bernofsky
for The Old Child & Other Stories by Jenny Erpenbeck (New Directions)
2005 Michael Henry Heim
for Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (Ecco)
2004 Breon Mitchell
for Morenga by Uwe Timm (New Directions)
2003 Margot Bettauer Dembo
for Summerhouse, later by Judith Hermann (Ecco)
2002 Anthea Bell
for Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald (Random House)
2001 Krishna Winston
for Too Far Afield by Günter Grass (Harcourt)
2000 Michael Hofmann
for Rebellion by Joseph Roth (St. Martin's Press)
1999 Joel Agee
for Penthesilia by Heinrich von Kleist (HarperCollins)
1998 John Brownjohn
for Heroes Like Us by Thomas Brussig (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
1997 Leila Vennewitz
for Jacob the Liar by Jurek Becker (Arcade Publishing)
1996 John E. Woods
for The Magic Mountain by Thomas Mann (Knopf) and Nobodaddy's Children by Arno Schmidt (Dalkey Archive Press)
Kurt Wolff, joined later by his wife Helen, was one of the most outstanding and innovative publishers in Germany of the 1920s. Helen and Kurt Wolff immigrated to New York in 1941, and founded Pantheon Books, a publishing house devoted mainly to the translation of German and other European literature. Herman Broch, Stefan George and Robert Musil were among the authors they published. In 1961 the couple joined the firm Harcourt Brace Jovanovich where they became co-publishers with their own imprint "Helen and Kurt Wolff Books". Kurt Wolff died on October 21, 1963. Upon her husband's death, Helen Wolff continued to work with authors on the Wolff list, expanding it to include Karl Jaspers, Walter Benjamin, Uwe Johnson, Günter Grass, Max Frisch, Jurek Becker, Hans Joachim Schädlich, and many others.

Helen Wolff was recognized for her work with an Inter Nationes Award, the Goethe-Medaille, and honorary doctorates from Mount Holyoke, Smith College and Dartmouth College. In 1994 she was awarded the Friedrich Gundolf Prize by the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung (German Academy for Language and Literature) for her promotion of German culture in the USA, and for making German literature accessible to American readers. Helen Wolff died on March 28, 1994.