Translation Prize


We are delighted to announce that the winner of the 2021 Peirene Stevns Translation Prize is Claire Wadie.

Claire Wadie’s entry was the unanimous favourite among the judges, who were impressed by her sensitivity to the original text and her ability to render the earthiness of the sample, while nonetheless producing a beautiful text in English. 

Claire receives a commission to translate the entirety of Manuel Astur’s San, el libro de los milagros, which will be published in 2022 by Peirene Press in the UK and New Vessel Press in the US. Claire will also receive a six month mentorship from twice-International Booker shortlisted translator Sophie Hughes and the opportunity to take a 6-week retreat in the Pyrenees. 

Many thanks to our judges: editor Gesche Ipsen, translator and mentor Sophie Hughes, writer and academic Patrick McGuinness and New Vessel publisher Michael Z. Wise.

Thanks also to everyone who entered the prize this year – it was a pleasure to read your work and we greatly appreciated the time and effort that went into each submission and the variety of creative approaches to a complex and challenging sample. We had a very high number of entries this year so particular congratulations are due to the shortlisted entrants.

We wish all entrants the best of luck with their future translation endeavours.

The 2021 shortlist has now been chosen.

The shortlisted translators are:

Rhiannon Ashcroft

Claire Davis

Kristin Siracusa Fisher

Lizzie Fox

Anna Haddelsey

Francesca Hemery

Rosa Joyce

Martha Sprackland

Carol Sykes

Claire Wadie

Congratulations to all shortlisted translators! The winner will be announced on April 15th.

This year, the prize is aimed at translators from Spanish to English and participants were invited to translate a sample from Manuel Astur’s San, el libro de los milagros (Acantilado, 2020), an elusive, magical realist tale which explores the power of stories to create and shape our realities.

The Prize

Established in 2018 with the generous support of Martha Stevns to provide opportunities for emerging translators, the prize is open to any translator over the age of 18 who has not yet published a full length literary translation. 

The prize winner will receive a £4,500 commission to translate San, el libro de los milagros, a translation retreat in the Pyrenees and a translation mentorship. The winner’s translation will be published in the UK by Peirene Press and in the US by New Vessel Press.

The mentorship: This year’s winner will work with Sophie Hughes, renowned translator of Spanish and Latin American literature. Over the course of the six-month mentorship, Sophie will work with the winner on all aspects of the translation process.

The retreat: An 18th century mill house in the foothills of the French Pyrenees. The house comfortably sleeps 5/6 and comes fully equipped including a large garden with a natural swimming pond. The closest village is a 10 minute walk from the retreat. Stay at the retreat is free and covered by the Peirene Stevns Prize; expenses and travel during the retreat are not covered. 

The book: Published last year in Spain to great critical acclaim, Manuel Astur’s San, el libro des los milagros is a lyrical fusion of fantasy and reality. Divided into three ‘songs’, the book interweaves the story of Marcelino, the protagonist, with folkloric elements. Astur’s evocative storytelling and startling imagery combine to create a work which is both urgent and timeless, as boundaries between memory and mythology are provocatively unsettled and obscured. At once breath-taking and bewildering in its scope, San, el libro des los milagros is a beautiful novel which asks what it means to tell stories, and to listen.


John Litell, winner of the 2020 Peirene Stevns Prize:

“Translating the iconic Swedish landscape of Andrea Lundgren’s Nordic Fauna was a delightful challenge. The experience was made possible by Martha Stevns’s insight and generosity in founding the Peirene Stevns Translation Prize, which provides aspiring translators the opportunity to do meaningful and fascinating work, learn from the best and find a path forward. I’m deeply grateful to her, my mentor Sarah Death and Peirene Press for the close and effective working relationship we enjoyed throughout the process.”

J Ockenden, winner of the 2019 Peirene Stevns Prize: 

“I worked on a story of bitter Alpine harshness [Snow, Dog, Foot] from the comfort of an idyllic mill in the Pyrenees, thanks to the extraordinary generosity of Martha Stevns. In creating the Peirene Stevns Translation Prize, she and Peirene Press have provided an unparalleled opportunity for young translators to see their work in print. I am incredibly grateful to them and I look forward to reading many more translations by future prizewinners!” 


The Judges

Gesche Ipsen, editor and translator

Gesche Ipsen is a freelance editor and translator. After gaining a PhD in Comparative Literature from UCL she joined Penguin as an editorial assistant, then became commissioning editor at Pushkin Press and later editorial director at Duckworth. She has worked extensively with Peirene over the last few years and judged and edited the first two Peirene Stevns Translation Prize winners. She lives in London.

Sophie Hughes, translator

Sophie Hughes is a translator of Spanish and Latin American literature, including novels by Enrique Vila-Matas, Laia Jufresa and Rodrigo Hasbún. She has been shortlisted for the International Booker Prize twice, for The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán in 2019, and Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor in 2020.


Patrick McGuinness, writer and academic

Patrick McGuinness is a novelist, poet and translator, and Professor of French and Comparative Literature at Oxford where he also judges the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. His most recent novel is Throw me to the Wolves (Jonathan Cape, 2019), and his memoir, Other People’s Countries: A Journey into Memory, appeared in 2015. His translations include Jorge Manrique’s Coplas for the Death of his Father (Seagull Books), Hélène Dorion’s Seizing: Places (Arc Publications)  and Mallarmé’s For Anatole’s Tomb (Carcanet). 


Michael Z. Wise, writer and publisher

Michael Z. Wise is the publisher of New Vessel Press. He has worked as a foreign correspondent based in London and Vienna, having covered Austria and Czechoslovakia for Reuters and The Washington Post. He is the author of Capital Dilemma: Germany’s Search for a New Architecture of Democracy. New Vessel Press is an independent publishing house based in New York City devoted to translated literature and narrative nonfiction from around the world.



Generously Endowed by Martha Stevns

Martha Stevns grew up in the Swiss-German speaking part of Switzerland and studied German Literature and Linguistics. Her love of literature has always stayed with her, and reading in German, French and English has been and still is one of her great pleasures. Peirene’s aim of bringing literature from different cultures and languages to the English speaking world through translations of high quality writing fits right into Martha’s philosophy of appreciating and sharing the richness of different cultures.

Involvement and support of the arts has long been a part of Martha’s life: Martha worked as an editor at the Swiss art magazine, DU, as well as running her own contemporary art gallery in the UK. In addition, Martha’s late husband founded the Australian Vogels Literary Award together with the Australian newspaper and the publisher Unwin Australia for an unpublished manuscript by young Australian writers. With the Peirene Stevns Translation Prize Martha, together with Peirene, wants to support young translators and hopes it will help the breaking down of linguistic (and other) barriers. Martha moved to the UK in 1985 and now lives in Cambridge.

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