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.
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
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)
for A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
for Imperium: A Fiction of the South Seas by Christian Kracht (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
for Flametti, or The Dandyism of the Poor by Hugo Ball (Wakefield Press)
for Kafka: The Years of Insight by Reiner Stach (Princeton University Press)
for An Ermine in Czernopol by Gregor von Rezzori (New York Review Books)
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)
for Speak, Nabokov by Michael Maar (Verso)
for The Executor – A Comedy of Letters by Michael Krüger (Harcourt)
for Childhood. An Autobiographical Fragment by Moses Rosenkranz (Syracuse University Press)
for The Bird is a Raven by Benjamin Lebert (Knopf)
for The Old Child & Other Stories by Jenny Erpenbeck (New Directions)
|2005||Michael Henry Heim
for Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (Ecco)
for Morenga by Uwe Timm (New Directions)
|2003||Margot Bettauer Dembo
for Summerhouse, later by Judith Hermann (Ecco)
for Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald (Random House)
for Too Far Afield by Günter Grass (Harcourt)
for Rebellion by Joseph Roth (St. Martin's Press)
for Penthesilia by Heinrich von Kleist (HarperCollins)
for Heroes Like Us by Thomas Brussig (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
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)
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.