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Edith Grossman, Renowned Translator and Advocate for Translation, to Receive 2019 Ottaway Award

By Words Without Borders


We are pleased to announce that Edith Grossman will receive the 2019 Ottaway Award for the Promotion of International Literature.

“In a career that spans over half a century—translating, teaching the art of translation, and advocating for the value of translators—Edith has truly shown us all why translation matters,” said Words Without Borders Board Chair Samantha Schnee.

Edith Grossman has earned renown as one of the most distinguished literary translators of our time and an outspoken advocate in the field. Grossman’s translations have brought into the English-language canon works by some of the most influential voices in Spanish-language literatures, including Miguel de Cervantes, Gabriel García Márquez, and Mario Vargas Llosa. She has received numerous accolades for her work,including the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Arts and Letters Award in Literature,and the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Civil Merit, awarded by the King of Spain Felipe VI.

Beyond her immense literary contributions, Grossman has advanced the field of international literature by raising awareness of the cultural imperative of translation and the value of translators in cultivating human understanding. In her seminal work, Why Translation Matters (2010), Grossman writes:

Translation always helps us to know, to see from a different angle, to attribute new value to what once may have been unfamiliar. As nations and as individuals, we have a critical need for that kind of understanding and insight. The alternative is unthinkable.

In action and in word, Grossman has been a tireless proponent of recognizing the indispensable role of translators in the literary world and beyond, calling for fair contractual terms and speaking out against the erasure of translators’ contributions from book reviews and book covers. Grossman has served future generations of translators not only through her teaching but also by changing attitudes and industry practices toward translators.

Named in honor of the first chair of Words Without Borders, James H. Ottaway, Jr., the Ottaway Award recognizes an individual whose work and activism have supported WWB’s mission of promoting cultural understanding through the publication and promotion of international literature. Past awardees include editors Chad W. Post, Jill Schoolman, Barbara Epler, Sara Bershtel, the late Carol Brown Janeway, and Drenka Willen. Edith Grossman is the first literary translator to receive the Ottaway Award, which will be presented to her by writer, editor, and award-winning translator Daniel Hahn.

The Words Without Borders Gala will take place on October 29, 2019, at Tribeca Three Sixty° in New York City. Gala co-chairs Jennifer Moross and Rebecca Servadio will be joined by honorary chair Emily Wilson, the acclaimed translator of The Odyssey. A full lineup of author hosts, special guests, and sponsors will be announced next week.

For more information about the event or table sponsorship, please contact [email protected].
Tickets on sale now.


Published Sep 5, 2019   Copyright 2019 Words Without Borders

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