Gutekunst Prize 2017 ©   Gutekunst Prize 2017

In 2010, the Goethe-Institut New York received a generous donation in memory of Frederick and Grace Gutekunst. A prize was created to identify outstanding young translators of German literature into English and assist them in establishing contact with the translation and publishing communities. As of 2017, the prize is supported by the Friends of Goethe New York.

Prize Recipient 2017

For her translation of an excerpt from Rasha Khayat's novel Weil wir längst woanders sind [Because We’re Elsewhere Now], the winner of the seventh annual Gutekunst Prize of the Friends of Goethe New York is Amanda Olson.

Weil wir längst woanders sind is a debut novel about a German-Saudi man who travels to Saudi Arabia for his estranged sister‘s wedding, published by Dumont Verlag in 2016.

Olson wrote the following on her experience of translating Khayat's text:

“A few things struck me right away when reading Khayat’s novel and I relied on those first impressions to guide my decision-making as I translated. These were things I really liked about the book but they also turned out to be big challenges. It’s a quick read, for one. Not because of some driving suspense or because the material is light—it’s not. It deals with heavy experiences and emotions. But it’s conversational and reads easy, and I wanted to replicate that ease. I was also struck by the contrast in style between the narrator’s time in Saudi Arabia and his childhood flashbacks, one obvious difference being the amount of dialogue. Dialogue is hard. By drawing on my own experiences of big family gatherings and pour-your-heart-out conversations with friends, I hoped to keep Khayat’s characters relatable and authentic. At the center of this story is the experience of cultural disconnect. The differences presented were stark, yet I was left with the impression of the foreign as something familiar, a feeling I wanted to preserve.”

The jury, comprised of Shelley Frisch, translator, Tess Lewis, book critic and translator, and Michael Reynolds, editor in chief of Europa Editions, stated:

"In the estimation of this year’s jurors, one translation stood out from a host of excellent candidates for its technical proficiency, for the expertise with which the translator solved specific dilemmas and avoided certain traps, and for the translation’s overall quality. Jurors were impressed by the vivacity and tightness of the English and the accuracy with which the original German text was rendered in English. The winning translation rendered the tone of the original in a way that showed great faithfulness and yet felt natural in the target language. What most impressed the jurors, as must be the case in a prize for translators who are at the start of their careers, was the clear potential of the translator who entered the winning translation. This year’s Gutekunst Prize of the Friends of Goethe New York is awarded to Amanda Olson for her translation of an excerpt from Weil wir längst woanders sind by Rasha Khayat."

You can read Amanda Olson's prizewinning translation here:


Amanda Olson
© Corey R. Tabor
Amanda Olson holds a BA in German and Anthropology from Pacific Lutheran University and a certificate in translation from the Bellevue College Translation & Interpretation Institute. Since 2014 she has been certified as a translator from German to English by the American Translators Association. She works as a translator for German Language Services in Seattle, WA. 

About the Prize

Year Recipients
2016 Laura Caton
for her translation of a selection from Drohnenland by Sabine Rennefanz (Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2014)
2015 Sophie Duvernoy
for her translation of a selection from Eisenkinder by Sabine Rennefanz (Luchterhand, 2013)
2014 Elizabeth Lauffer
for her translation of a selection from Gib jedem seinen eigenen Tod by Veit Heinchen (Zsolnay, 2001)
2013 Alta Price
for her translation of a selection from Bugatti taucht auf by Dea Loher (Wallstein, 2012)
2012 Daniel Clausen
for his translation of a selection from Roman unserer Kindheit by Georg Klein (Rowohlt, 2010)
2011 Karí Driscoll
for his translation of a selection from Was davor geschah by Martin Mosebach (Hanser, 2010)

Frederic(k) Paul Gutekunst was born in Moberly, Missouri on July 24, 1889. His parents were George and Emilie Gutekunst, originally of Germany. Upon his graduation from Moberly High School, he attended from 1908 until 1912 Central Wesleyan College, which was a small, closely-knit German Methodist college founded in 1864 as a home for Civil War orphans and to supply a higher education institute for German Methodist youths in the area.

Upon his 1912 graduation with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in German, he accepted a faculty appointment at Central Wesleyan College as a professor of German and Stenography. By 1915, Frederick was employed as an assistant in the University of Missouri’s German Department. Despite not having a graduate degree, Frederick was considered a faculty member at the University of Missouri, and was listed as such in the 1918 yearbook. In 1917 he married Grace Zimmerman, who also had graduated from Central Wesleyan College.

In 1924, Frederick graduated at the University of Missouri – Columbia Masters of Arts program with a Masters of Arts degree in German. Frederick continued to teach at the University of Missouri for a couple of years before relocating to New York City in 1926 to enroll in Columbia University’s graduate doctoral program and started teaching German at Hunter College. Frederick, his wife and their two daughters relocated to Mt. Vernon, New York. Despite not finishing his doctoral degree, Frederick was promoted to Assistant Professor at Hunter College in 1928. He was tenured as an Assistant Professor at Hunter College for 34 years until his retirement in 1960.

Frederick Paul Gutekunst died in Mt. Vernon, New York in January 1985.

(The research on Frederick Gutekunst was done by Johanna Blakely-Bourgeois.)