Deadline: 1 February 2017

Close Approximations 2017 Poster

We’re thrilled to announce the third edition of Close Approximations, Asymptote’s international translation contest. Open to emerging translators, this contest invites translations in two genres: fiction and poetry. The winner and two runners-up of each category will walk away with 1,000 USD and 250 USD respectively.

In addition to winning some serious prize money, they will also be featured in our April 2017 issue (and quite possibly at our partner newspaper, The Guardian, as well, via our Translation Tuesday showcase), joining the exceptional roster of translators that have presented new work in our pages, including J.M. Coetzee, Ann Goldstein, Daniel Hahn, Lydia Davis, Pierre Joris, Forrest Gander, Ellen Elias-Bursac and Deborah Smith.

Judging this contest are two of the finest translators working into English today:

David Bellos (Fiction judge) was educated at Oxford and teaches French and Comparative Literature at Princeton, where he also directs the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication. He has writen biographies of Georges Perec (1993) and Jacques Tati (1999) that have been translated into many languages, and an introduction to translation studies, Is That A Fish in Your Ear? The Amazing Adventure of Translation (2011). He has translated numerous authors from French (Perec, Vargas, Kadare, Simenon, Antelme, Fournel) and offers a new understanding of the extraordinary life and work of Romain Gary in Romain Gary: A Tall Story (2010). He is currently writing a book about Les Misérables.

Sawako Nakayasu (Poetry judge) was born in Japan and raised in the US, and has also lived in France and China. Her books include The Ants (Les Figues Press) and Texture Notes (Letter Machine), and recent translations include Tatsumi Hijikata’s Costume en Face (Ugly Duckling Presse) and The Collected Poems of Sagawa Chika (Canarium Books), which won the 2016 PEN Award for Poetry in Translation. Other books include Hurry Home Honey (Burning Deck) and Mouth: Eats Color – Sagawa Chika Translations, Anti-translations, & Originals, which is a multilingual work of both original and translated poetry. Her translation of Takashi Hiraide’s For the Fighting Spirit of the Walnut (New Directions) received the 2009 Best Translated Book Award from Three Percent. Nakayasu has also appeared on Japanese television as a poetry judge, performed in a re-enactment of Yvonne Rainer’s Grand Union Dreams (dir. Yelena Gluzman) as well as in Cornelius Cardew’s Paragraphs 4 & 7 from The Great Learning (dir. Tomomi Adachi).



“Winning the Asymptote Close Approximations fiction prize came as a complete—and fabulous—surprise to me. It was especially gratifying since the text I had chosen, Maraudes, was written by a friend for whom this was a first publication in English. The author, Sophie Pujas, was just as thrilled as I was to see the extracts of her book win the prize and appear in The Guardian. The text is a jewel-box of a hundred micro-fictions set in the streets of Paris, and I was able to pick out those stories which presented interesting challenges for the translator: rendering the lilting rhythm of Sophie’s poetic prose, finding equivalents for a series of fixed similes, or conveying the wordplay in items of graffiti. Ottilie Mulzet’s encouraging review of the translation, along with the friendly support from [editor-in-chief] Lee Yew Leong and the Asymptote team throughout the entire process, made this a very satisfying experience indeed. I wish to express my gratitude to them all here.”


—Ruth Diver, winner in the fiction category of the 2016 Close Approximations contest

"When working with Marie Silkeberg to translate her poems from “The Cities,” I felt that they were poems that urgently needed to be translated for English readers. Winning the Close Approximations contest helped confirm that my sense was correct. It was such an honor to know that Michal Hofmann, of all people, found them to be poems he would like to live with longer in English, as he put it. Winning the contest has given me the encouragement to continue translating the rest of Marie’s book. It feels timely, since her poems are in response to the Arab Spring and have themes of immigrant identity and displacement that are salient to the refugee crisis, particularly the response in Northern Europe.

It was also very special that Asymptote arranged with The Guardian to showcase my translations of Marie’s poems to their readers. Through their post as well as through Asymptote’s website, I’ve already been contacted by other writers and translators, and I’m grateful for the gift of the community I’m becoming part of as a new translator. I’m also grateful that Asymptote recognizes the collaborative nature of translation (they honored both Marie and myself as co-translators), which is one of my favorite aspects of the work of translation, in contrast to the often-solitary work of writing my own poetry. Asymptote makes a place for the sharing that happens in translation!"

—Kelsi Vanada, co-winner in the poetry category of the 2016 Close Approximations contest

Find the results of the first and second Close Approximations contest (as well as links to the winning entries) here and here. In addition, we arranged for the second edition’s first-prize winners to be published at The Guardian here, here, and here (this last one was shared 2,276 times, testifying to the reach that winning the contest can bring).




Submit between 5 to 10 pages of translated poetry or between 10 to 25 pages of translated fiction via the 'Contest' option of our Submittable page, in the appropriate category by 1 Feb 2017.

Be sure to note the following guidelines:

• All text must be formatted in a standard 12-point font.

• Poetry entries must be single-spaced unless otherwise necessary. Fiction entries must be double-spaced.

• Drama and nonfiction cannot be entered as fiction.

• The page minimums and maximums only apply to the translated pages; the original text does not contribute to the 10-page poetry and 25-page fiction maximums.

• Each submission must contain a translation or translations of work by one single poet or author only.

• If submitting an excerpt of a novel, please pick one continuous excerpt that can stand on its own.

• Via Submittable, you will be asked for information pertaining to the Title of the Work, the Original Poet/Author, the Original Language, the Country of Publication, the Translator(s), Bios of both Author and Translator(s), as well as your contact details.

• Your submission should be saved as one single Word Document under the file name [GENRE—Original Language—last name of translated poet/author].doc or [GENRE—Original Language—last name of translated poet/author].docx (e.g. POETRY—Korean—KIM.docx).

• The document should begin with three lines bearing the following information only:

• the title of the translated work

• the poet/author of the original work

• the language from which the work has been translated

IMPORTANT: Please DO NOT include the name(s) of the translator(s) anywhere in this Word document (e.g. in the header or footer of the document).

• Following this information, please include:

• the English translation (between 5 to 10 pages for poetry or between 10 to 25 pages for fiction), followed by

• the original text of the work(s).

• Only if absolutely necessary, a PDF scan can be sent to with the subject header “Genre—Original Language—PDF of Original for [lastname of translated poet/author]” (e.g. FICTION—SWAHILI—PDF of Original for ADICHIE), in lieu of this original text.

• There will be a nonrefundable contest fee of 15 USD to be paid via Submittable.

• Unless the work you are translating has already entered public domain, we ask that you obtain a statement from the holder of the copyright for the work under translation verifying that the rights are available before you submit your contest entry. We will ask you to furnish this statement if your work is selected.

• Works enter the public domain generally 50 to 76 years after the author’s death, depending on the country where the work was published. The onus is on you to verify if the work in question has indeed entered the public domain, if it comes to that. We will not entertain any queries with regard to the copyright status of a work.

• We ask that submissions be limited to translations of writers who have yet to appear widely in English but are generally available in their native tongue. As an example, Sappho is considered widely published in English, even if freshly translated. In contrast, an author with only a small fraction of his or her work published in English translation (or none at all) would be a perfect candidate for the contest.

• Translations must be into English, but may come from any language besides English. Although we especially welcome contemporary work translated from underrepresented languages, neither the work’s original language or its contemporaneity will be a factor in the judging.

• Self-translations are not permitted.

• Translations must not have been previously published. “Publication” here includes appearances in limited-circulation or defunct print publications/online outlets.

• Simultaneous submissions are not allowed.

• If a translation is slated for publication in a title that is forthcoming after April 2017, it may be submitted for consideration.

• Up to three entries are allowed per individual for poetry and up to four entries each are allowed per individual for fiction. If submitting more than one entry, please upload each as a separate Submittable submission (Note that the contest fee will apply to each).

• Multiple submissions across different genres are allowed.

• Collaborative translations by up to two translators are allowed.

• Preference will be given to translators who are early in their careers. (If you have published only one book-length translation or none so far, we will consider you "early in your career.")

• Persons who have served or are currently serving as editors or interns at Asymptote are not eligible to enter this contest.

• Members of Asymptote’s support team and past contributors are eligible.

• Previous Close Approximations contest winners and runners-up are not eligible to enter this contest.

• Translators of shortlisted works may be contacted for publication in a future issue, but, regardless, non-winners should feel welcome to submit their entries simultaneously to other publications after the contest results have been announced.

• We reserve the right to disqualify or reject any entry that we determine, in our sole and absolute discretion, does not meet the above criteria.

• The judges' decisions are final.

The results will be announced in our April 2017 issue, slated for release on 17 April, 2017. Please visit our website for the results.

Queries about the contest can be sent to

Thrilled about this opportunity? Help spread the word by downloading our flyer
here and putting it up at your university department/a local bookstore.