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.

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: Walter Schlect
30 Irving Place
New York, NY 10003

The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2019. 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 2018. 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 2019.

The winning translator and publishing house will be invited to the award ceremony in New York, to take place in June 2019.

Walter Schlect, Librarian
Tel  +1 212 439 8697

Prize Recipient 2018

Shortlist 2018

David Dollenmayer © Linda Pape

David Dollenmayer

For his translation of
Rüdiger Safranski's Goethe. Kunstwerk des Lebens

Goethe: Life as a Work of Art
Liveright, 2017

Isabel Fargo Cole © Simona Lexau

Isabel Fargo Cole

For her translation of
Wolfgang Hilbig's Alte Abdeckerei

Old Rendering Plant
Two Lines Press, 2017

Stefan Tobler © Karina Lax

Stefan Tobler

For his translation of
Arno Geiger's Der alte König in seinem Exil

The Old King in His Exile
Restless Books, 2017

Submitted Titles 2018

Walter Benjamin Sonnets

Walter Benjamin

Translated by Carl Skoggard
Fence Books, 2017


Elisabeth Borchers
Who Lives

Translated by Caroline Wilcox Reul
Tavern Books, 2017


Bernd Brunner
Birdmania: A Remarkable Passion for Birds

Translated by Jane Billinghurst
Greystone Books, 2017

Eichmann's Executioner

Astrid Dehe and Achim Engstler
Eichmann's Executioner

Translated by Helen MacCormac and Alyson Coombes
The New Press, 2017


Jenny Erpenbeck
Go, Went, Gone

Translated by Susan Bernofsky
New Directions, 2017


Arno Geiger
The Old King in His Exile

Translated by Stefan Tobler
Restless Books, 2017


Byung-Chul Han

Translated by Erik Butler
Verso Books, 2017


Johann Gottfried Herder
Song Loves the Masses: Herder on Music and Nationalism

Translated by Philip V. Bohlman
University of California Press, 2017


Franz Hessel
Walking in Berlin: A Flaneur in the Capital

Translated by Amanda DeMarco
MIT Press, 2017


Wolfgang Hilbig
Old Rendering Plant

Translated by Isabel Fargo Cole
Two Lines Press, 2017


Ernst Jünger
The Worker: Dominion and Form

Translated by Bogdan Costea and Laurence Paul Hemming
Northwestern University Press, 2017


Franz Kafka
Investigations of a Dog & Other Creatures

Translated by Michael Hofmann
New Directions, 2017


Joachim Kalka

Translated by Isabel Fargo Cole
New York Review Books, 2017


Hans Keilson
1944 Diary

Translated by Damion Searls
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2017


Merle Kröger

Translated by Rachel Hildebrandt and Alexandra Roesch
Unnamed Press, 2017


Rüdiger Safranski
Goethe: Life as a Work of Art

Translated by David Dollenmayer
Liveright, 2017


Bernhard Schlink
The Woman on the Stairs

Translated by Joyce Hackett and Bradley Schmitt
Pantheon, 2017


Arthur Schnitzler
Late Fame

Translated by Alexander Starritt
New York Review Books, 2017


Carl Seelig
Walks with Walser

Translated by Anne Posten
New Directions, 2017


Peter Stamm
To the Back of Beyond

Translated by Michael Hofmann
Other Press, 2017

Von Welser

Maria von Welser
No Refuge for Women: The Tragic Fate of Syrian Refugees

Translated by Jamie McIntosh
Greystone Books, 2017


Jan Wagner
The Art of Topiary

Translated by David Keplinger
Milkweed Editions, 2017


Andreas Weber
Matter & Desire: An Erotic Ecology

Translated by Rory Bradley
Chelsea Green Publishing, 2017

Ilse Weber

Ilse Weber
Dancing on a Powder Keg

Translated by Michal Schwartz
Bunam & Bannigan Ltd., 2017


Peter Wohlleben
The Inner Life of Animals

Translated by Jane Billinghurst
Greystone Books, 2017


Uljana Wolf
Sub-sisters: Selected Poems

Translated by Sophie Seita
Belladonna, 2017

About the Prize

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

Daniel Bowles

Daniel Bowles received the 2016 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize for his translation of Christian Kracht's Imperium: A Fiction of the South Seas.

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2015

Year Recipients
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 Venus 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". Upon her husband's death in 1963, 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 at the age of 87 on March 28, 1994.