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.
Philip Boehm received the 2020 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator's Prize for his translation of Christine Wunnicke's The Fox and Dr. Shimamura.
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 his translation of Robert Musil's Agathe, or the Forgotten Sister (New York Review of Books, 2019)
For his translations of Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon (Scribner, 2019)
AND Christine Wunnicke's The Fox and Dr. Shimamura (New Directions, 2019)
For his translation of Martin Walser's A Man in Love (Arcade Publishing, 2019)
For her translation of Marie-Janine Calic's The Great Cauldron: A History of Southeastern Europe (Harvard University Press, 2019)
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.
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.