“The Boy and the Dog” Translator Alison Watts Awarded the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Translation Prize

Books Culture

Alison Watts was selected as the first winner of the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Translation Prize for her translation of Hase Seishū’s The Boy and the Dog.

On February 7, Alison Watts was named as the inaugural winner of the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Translation Prize, launched by the foundation in association with the Society of Authors, for her translation of The Boy and the Dog by Hase Seishū. In the novel, a dog travels across Japan, bringing healing moments into the desperate lives of a series of temporary owners.

The competition judges said, “The biggest challenge translating a great page-turner such as this book would be to maintain the energy, momentum, and cultural charms in order to keep the readers intrigued. This English translation succeeded across the board. Some elements are so beautifully sad that we may freely shed a tear or two. Everyone, please read this English translation and keep a handkerchief nearby.”

Watts was also shortlisted for the same award for Onda Riku’s Fish Swimming in Dappled Sunlight. Her other translations include Sweet Bean Paste from Durian Sukegawa’s An and What You Are Looking For Is in the Library from Aoyama Michiko’s Osagashimono wa toshoshitsu made. She commented, “At a time when the publication of titles translated from Japanese is flourishing more than ever, this prize is a welcome recognition of the diversity of Japanese literature, and the translators working across a broad range of genres who strive to bring high-quality translations to the English-speaking world.”

The two runners-up were David Boyd for Weasels in the Attic by Oyamada Hiroko, which considers family and fertility in three surreal episodes, and Sam Bett and David Boyd for All the Lovers in the Night by Kawakami Mieko, which tells the painful story of a freelance proofreader who finds relationships difficult as she struggles with new friendships.

The prize considered translations published in Britain between April 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023, with £3,000 awarded to the winner and £1,000 to the runners-up.

The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation Translation Prize Shortlist

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

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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