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.

Prize Recipient 2019

Damion Searls was chosen to receive the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize by a jury of five for his translation of Uwe Johnson’s Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl published by New York Review Books in 2018. The honor was presented to him at the Goethe-Institut New York on May 23, 2019 by Yasemin Pamuk, Head of Cultural Affairs and Science at the Consulate General of Germany.

Jury Statement

The jury for the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize takes great pleasure in awarding this year’s prize to Damion Searls for his masterful translation of Uwe Johnson’s Anniversaries. This multi-volume novel, which poses daunting translation challenges, chronicles a year (August 1967-August 1968) in the life of Gesine Cresspahl, a woman who left her small town in East Germany for New York’s Upper West Side with her young daughter, and overlays her daily struggles with painful memories of the past and the alarming news of the present world in a daily-recorded, year-long montage. Searls’s translation of this monumental work—which has been compared to the writings of Joyce, Faulkner, and Balzac— is the first complete edition of this novel in English. His sparkling translation captures the dizzying swirl of events, from the quotidian to the earth-shattering, with meticulous, acoustically spellbinding prose, and makes for riveting reading throughout its nearly 1,700 pages.

About Damion Searls

Damion Searls © Paul Barbera Damion Searls is the author of a book on Hermann Rorschach and the Rorschach test, and has translated many classic modern writers, including Marcel Proust, Rainer Maria Rilke, Friedrich Nietzsche, Robert Walser, Ingeborg Bachmann, Alfred Döblin, Jon Fosse, Elfriede Jelinek, Patrick Modiano and Nescio. 

The Jury

Shelley Frisch, Princeton, NJ, Chair
Bettina Abarbanell, Potsdam, Germany
Ross Benjamin, Nyack, NY
John Hargraves, New York, NY
Susan Harris, Chicago, IL