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Helen & Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize
Shortlist 2021


"This past year has been a hard one on a global scale, medically, politically, and even meteorologically. For many of us, though, literature has remained a reliable source of solace, entertainment, and, often, joy, all of which were needed more than ever. How wonderful, then, to greet the 31 submissions to this year’s Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize. Our jury was treated to a broad spectrum of prose and poetry, fiction and nonfiction, among them texts that defied easy categorization.

The four books that constitute this year’s shortlist—Judith Schalansky’s An Inventory of Losses, translated by Jackie Smith, Jonas Lüscher’s Kraft, translated by Tess Lewis, Volker Ullrich’s Hitler: Downfall, 1939-1945, translated by Jefferson Chase, and Sasha Marianna Salzmann’s Beside Myself, translated by Imogen Taylor—stood out for their ingenuity, beauty, and accuracy in capturing the letter and spirit of their respective source texts.

We congratulate all four translators for their outstanding contributions in bringing German-language texts to our shores, and thank them for the pleasure and insights they are affording their new readerships."

- Shelley Frisch, Jury Chair

jefferson Chase

Jefferson Chase © Jefferson Chase For his translation of Volker Ullrich's Hitler: Downfall, 1939-1945 (Alfred A. Knopf, 2020)

Jefferson Chase has at various times in his life been a university lecturer in German, a journalist for Germany’s foreign public broadcaster and a communications manager for Germany’s international economic development agency. He is also a translator of some 40 books from German to English, starting with Thomas Mann’s Death in Venice and Other Stories. Among his most well-known translations are Wolfgang Schivelbusch’s The Culture of Defeat, Götz Aly’s Hitler’s Beneficiaries and Volker Ullrich’s landmark two-volume biography of Adolf Hitler. Although Nazism and anti-Semitism have been recurring theme in Chase’s work, his other translations cover everything from a childhood in Communist East Germany to the Guantanamo prison camp, terrifying mishaps with nuclear weapons to Wikileaks. He lives and works in Berlin.

tess Lewis

Tess Lewis © Sarah Shatz For her translation of Jonas Lüscher's Kraft (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2020)

Tess Lewis is a writer and translator from French and German. Her translations include works by Peter Handke, Walter Benjamin, Jonas Lüscher and Philippe Jaccottet. Her recent awards include the PEN Translation Prize for Maja Haderlap’s Angel of Oblivion and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Her essays and reviews have appeared in a number of journals and newspapers. She is an Advisory Editor for The Hudson Review and co-curator of the Festival Neue Literatur, New York City’s annual festival of German language literature in English.

jackie smith

Jackie Smith © Patrick Bennett For her translation of Judith Schalansky's An Inventory of Losses (New Directions, 2020)

Jackie Smith studied Modern Languages (German and French) at Cambridge University. She worked as a commercial translator, including several years at a German bank, before venturing into book translation. She translates fiction and non-fiction, and in 2017 was the winner of the Austrian Cultural Forum London Translation Prize. Her translation of Judith Schalansky’s An Inventory of Losses, which is her first full-length literary translation, has been longlisted for the International Booker Prize 2021.

imogen taylor

Imogen Taylor © C. Broszies For her translation of Sasha Marianna Salzmann's Beside Myself (Other Press, 2020)

Imogen Taylor is a translator from the French and German. She was born in London in 1978 and has lived in Berlin since 2001. Her most recent translations are Two Women and a Poisoning by Alfred Döblin and The Missing by Dirk Kurbjuweit.



Shelley Frisch (Chair), Bettina Abarbanell, Philip Boehm, John Hargraves, Susan Harris