By Susan Harris
Tuesday night WWB staff, board, contributors, supporters, and readers gathered at Tribeca 360, where the panoramic view mirrored the sweep of our content, to celebrate our eleventh anniversary and present the second James H. Ottaway Jr. Award for the Promotion of International Literature to Knopf editor and translator Carol Brown Janeway.
After a convivial cocktail hour, host Saïd Sayrafiezadeh welcomed guests, then introduced writers Valzhyna Mort, Yiyun Li, and Ru Freeman, who electrified all with poetry readings from Belorusian, Chinese, and Sinhala, respectively. Valzhyna noted, “Literature requires no passport”; Yiyun recalled her discovery of Tolstoy’s “Resurrection” when it was first translated into Chinese; and Ru declared, “We are made greater by translation”—an ideal segue into the evening’s main event.
In his award presentation, Companhia publisher Luiz Schwarcz spoke of art's power to take us out of one place and into infinite others, and noted Carol's great accomplishments and importance in the field. In her acceptance speech, Carol characterized English as "the great taxi service" for international writing, then cited another form of transit: her day of flights to and through Europe to facilitate the simultaneous publication of Russian dissident Andrei Sakharov's memoir in nine langauges. Gala chair Maria Campbell then graciously thanked all involved in bringing the gala together, after which our executive director Karen Phillips announced the launch of our terrific new education program, Words without Borders campus, and unveiled an inspiring video of the program in action at a local community college. After Saïd delivered the closing remarks, the crowd adjourned to our first annual Globe Trot, presented by the WWB Young Publishers Committee and co-hosts Rivka Galchen, Dinaw Mengestu, Jess Row, Téa Obreht, and Tiphanie Yanique, and featuring DJs, raffle prizes, and a remarkable spread of desserts. It was close to midnight before the party wound down.
Three days later, we're still basking in the warmth of the evening, and the generosity and goodwill shown to WWB and our mission. It would take another eleven years to thank all of our contributors, authors, translators, partners, readers, and supporters. If you're reading this, you fall into at least one of those categories. Stay tuned for a gallery of photos from the evening, and for our next eleven years of promoting and publishing the best literature from around the world.
See photos by Beowulf Sheehan here:
Published Oct 30, 2014 Copyright 2014 Susan Harris