Spotlight on Our Close Approximations Judges

Spotlight on our translation contest judges, who will be awarding $4,500 in prizes

With the deadline for the second edition of our Close Approximations contest fast approaching, we’ll be proudly revisiting the winning translations of our previous edition, selected by Eliot Weinberger and Howard Goldblatt, over the next three weekends starting from tomorrow, right here on the blog.

Awarding a total of $4,500 in prize money to six winners this time are Michael Hofmann (Poetry), Ottilie Mulzet (Fiction) and Margaret Jull Costa (Nonfiction). If you’re inspired by what you read here, there is still time to enter, and we are encouraging submissions via our Submittable portal. Entrants have until December 15 to be in with a chance of winning up to 1,000USD, in addition to publication in our April 2016 issue, joining a roster of translators we have published that includes J.M. Coetzee, Lydia Davis, Susan Bernofsky, Robert Chandler, Ros Schwartz, Daniel Hahn, Pierre Joris and Rosmarie Waldrop.

To further pique your interest, here’s more about our wonderful judges and what they think about the act of translation.


For over thirty years, Michael Hofmann has been showered with awards for his translations of many of literature’s most respected writers. From Wim Wenders to Thomas Bernhard, Herta Müller to Franz Kafka, Hofmann’s mark is stamped on some of our best-loved works of literature. He has received the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, the Griffin Poetry Prize, and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize, to name but a few. As if there were not feathers enough in his cap, Hofmann himself is a successful poet, writer, critic, and editor, and regular contributor to the London Review of Books.

Of translation, he has said:

I think “faithful” is as overrated a category with regard to translation as “mistake” is. Translating isn’t really about either of those. It’s about making a believable surface—with the appearance of believable depths.

If you’ve got poetry translations that you’d love to have read by Hofmann, enter our contest today!


This year, Otillie Mulzet shared the Man Booker International Translator’s Prize with George Szirtes for her work on László Krasznahorkai’s literary oevre. Winner of 2014’s Best Translated Book Award for her translation of Krasznahorkai’s Seibo There Below, Mulzet works with some of the biggest, and most challenging names in contemporary literature in translation. A writer and critic, Mulzet is currently completing a collection of translations of Mongolian Buddhist legends, and a dissertation on Mongolian riddles.

Regarding her own translation practice, Mulzet comments:

I really try to convey what I feel is unique about the original, why it wasn’t written in English and perhaps never could be written in English. I want my translation to be something impossible yet extant, something existing on the border of two utterly incompatible worlds, and yet to be a bridge between those worlds.

If the idea of being read by the same brilliant mind that brings us Krasznahorkai in English excites you, don’t hesitate in submitting your fiction entries here!


Last but by no means least, Margaret Jull Costa, who has worked for almost three decades on translating writers such as Nobel Prize-winners José Saramago, Fernando Pessoa, and Eça de Queiroz, amongst many others. Two time recipient of the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize, she has also been awarded the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Portuguese Translation Prize, in addition to many more grants and honours. In 2014, Jull Costa was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to the field of translation.

In this interview with Asymptote, Jull Costa remarks:

(I)t seems to me that the translator is (…) constantly making decisions as to whether to stay closer to the original or to move away. The aim is to produce a text that reads as if it had been written in English, but without misrepresenting or distorting the original.

If you have a nonfiction translation and you’d like it to be considered by the translator of not one but five Nobel Prize-winners, send it our way!


This really is an exceptional opportunity for emerging translators to have their work read by three of the most accomplished and respected individuals in the field of translation. What’s more, the winner in each category will walk away with 1000USD and the runner-up 500USDFor full details, visit our contest page here. Our deadline is Dec 15, 2015, so hurry!