Shortlist Announced for New Japanese to English Translation Prize

Books Culture

The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Translation Prize shortlist includes works by the writers Kawakami Mieko, Tawada Yōko, and Dazai Osamu.

The shortlist for a new prize for translations of Japanese books into English was announced earlier this month, including works by such writers as Kawakami Mieko, Tawada Yōko, and Dazai Osamu. The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Translation Prize, launched by the foundation in association with the Society of Authors, considers books published in Britain between April 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023. The results are due to be announced on February 7, 2024; the translator of the winning title will receive £3,000 and the runner-up £1,000.

All the Lovers in the Night, the third in a well-received series of collaborations by Sam Bett and David Boyd on novels by Kawakami Mieko, tells the painful story of a freelance proofreader who finds relationships difficult struggling with new friendships. Scattered All Over the Earth, translated by Margaret Mitsutani, is the first in a trilogy of works by Tawada Yōko, sometimes seen as a contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature, centered on a young Japanese woman searching through Europe for others from her vanished homeland.

The Flowers of Buffoonery, also translated by Bett from a short work by Dazai Osamu, shares its main character Ōba Yōzō with the classic Ningen shikkaku (trans. by Donald Keene as No Longer Human); written much earlier, it is set at a sanatorium where he is recovering from a suicide attempt. The healing presence of a dog helping a series of temporary owners has charmed readers of Hase Seishū’s The Boy and the Dog, translated by Alison Watts.

Also translated by Watts, Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight is a mystery by Onda Riku in which a couple battle to get the other to confess to the murder of a hiking guide. Weasels in the Attic, translated by Boyd from interconnected stories by Oyamada Hiroko, considers family and fertility in three surreal episodes.

The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Translation Prize Shortlist

Work Translator Author
Subete mayonaka no koibitotachi (2011) (All the Lovers in the Night) Sam Bett and David Boyd Kawakami Mieko
Chikyū ni chiribamerarete (2018) (Scattered All Over the Earth) Margaret Mitsutani Tawada Yōko
Dōke no hana (1935) (The Flowers of Buffoonery) Sam Bett Dazai Osamu
Shōnen to inu (2020) (The Boy and the Dog) Alison Watts Hase Seishū (Bandō Toshihito)
Komorebi ni oyogu sakana (2007) (Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight) Alison Watts Onda Riku
Weasels in the Attic (2012–14) (translated from three short stories in separate collections) David Boyd Oyamada Hiroko

The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Translation Prize is one of eight Society of Authors translation prizes for different languages.

(Originally published in English. Banner photo © Natalie Thorpe.)

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