2011 Helen and Kurt Wolff Translator’s Prize

June 13, 2011

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Jean M. Snook

The jury for the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translation Prize is pleased to award the prize for 2010 to Jean Snook for her translation of Gert Jonke’s The Distant Sound, published by Dalkey Archive Press.

The Austrian novelist, poet, and playwright Gert Jonke (1946-2009) wrote a German rich in descriptive detail and evocative sound effects that Snook has rendered with consummate skill into an English as poetic, funny, and crazy as the original.

In long, spooling sentences and synaesthetic images, she gives English-speaking readers access to a writer who deserves a place next to better-known contemporaries such as Thomas Bernhard and Arno Schmidt. Snook makes the tightrope act of translating Jonke’s exploration of language as a means of capturing the ineffable look effortless.

Jean M. Snook lives with her husband on the easternmost tip of North America, the Avalon Peninsula on the island of Newfoundland, where she has taught German language and literature at Memorial University since 1984. She has translated Else Lasker-Schüler’s Concert and Luise Rinser’s Abelard’s Love for the University of Nebraska Press, Evelyn Grill’s Winter Quarters for Ariadne Press, Hans Eichner’s Kahn & Engelmann for Biblioasis, and, thanks to a reference from translator Renate Latimer, Gert Jonke’s Homage to Czerny: Studies in Virtuoso Technique for Dalkey Archive Press, where she received very welcome editorial assistance from Jeremy Davies.

Snook began translating Jonke’s The Distant Sound during a stay at the Europäisches Übersetzerkollegium in Straelen, Germany, in 2007, and finished the translation in 2009, when it won the inaugural Austrian Cultural Forum Translation Prize. Her translation of the third book in Jonke’s trilogy, Awakening to the Great Sleep War, is due to appear later in 2011. She is now translating a book by the Swiss author Paul Nizon.

Recorded Monday, June 13, 2011 at the Chicago Cultural Center.