Deadline: 1 October, 2018

We’re thrilled to announce the fourth 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 in each category will respectively receive 1,000 USD and 250 USD worth of prizes that includes a one-year Asymptote Book Club subscription.

In addition to winning some serious prize money, they will also be featured in our Winter 2019 issue, joining an exceptional roster of translators published in our pages, including J.M. Coetzee, Michael Hofmann, Lydia Davis, Damion Searls, Rosmarie Waldrop, Howard Goldblatt, Ellen Elias-Bursac, and Jennifer Croft.

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

Edward Gauvin (Fiction) has received prizes, fellowships, and residencies from PEN America, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fulbright program, Ledig House, the Lannan Foundation, and the French Embassy. His work has won the John Dryden Translation prize and the Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award, and been nominated for the French-American Foundation and Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prizes. Other pieces have appeared in The New York TimesHarper’sTin House, and Subtropics. The translator of more than 300 graphic novels, he is a contributing editor for comics at Words Without Borders, and has written on the Francophone fantastic at Weird Fiction Review

Eugene Ostashevsky (Poetry) was born in Leningrad, grew up in New York, and lives in Berlin. As translator from Russian, he works primarily with OBERIU, the 1920s-1930s underground circle led by Daniil Kharms and Alexander Vvedensky. His collection of Alexander Vvedensky’s poetry, An Invitation for Me to Think (NYRB Poets, 2013), with contributions by Matvei Yankelevich, won the 2014 National Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association. His as-yet-unpublished project on OBERIU Conversations by Leonid Lipavsky won a translation fellowship from the NEA. Finally, his moonlighting in Italian as a co-translator of Elisa Biagini’s The Guest in The Woods helped her win the 2014 Best Translated Book Award from Three Percent. 


“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… I entered the competition as a complete rookie, a reformed academic whose total literary translation production was only a few lines of verse, despite a lifetime spent among languages and literatures. Only a few months later, I now find myself launching into my first full-length project, and into a collaboration with an independent publisher of literary translations, Les Fugitives.”


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




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 October, 2018, along with your entry fee of 20 USD. To encourage earlier submissions, we are charging a lower entry fee of 17 USD for submissions on or before 1 September, 2018.

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 and nonfiction 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:

  1. The title of the translated work
  2. The poet/author of the original work
  3. 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:

  1. The English translation (between 5 to 10 pages for poetry or between 10 to 25 pages for fiction), followed by
  2. The original text of the work(s) (if the work consists of more than one piece, please put all your translations before all the original texts—in the same sequence as they appear in the translations).
  3. 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. NONFICTION_SWAHILI_PDF of Original for ADICHIE), in lieu of this original text.

• There will be a nonrefundable contest fee of 17 USD—for submissions coming in on or before 1 Sep, 2018, and 20 USD—for submissions coming in on or before 1 Oct, 2018 and after 1 Sep, 2018. This contest fee is 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 January 2019, it may be submitted for consideration.

• Up to four entries are allowed per individual for poetry and up to five 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 team members or interns at Asymptote are not eligible to enter this contest.

• Members of Asymptote’s support team, past contributors, as well as current and past Asymptote Book Club members, are all eligible.

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

• If you have signed up to be a sustaining member at a tier of 110 USD a year or higher, not only do you receive an ASYMPTOTE Moleskine notebook but your contest fee for one entry is also waived. In this case, you may bypass Submittable and write us directly to submit your contest entry. 

• If you are currently an Asymptote Book Club member when the results are announced, and you are one of our six winners, you may choose either to gift your one-year Asymptote Book Club subscription to a loved one or trade your subscription in for 180 USD in prize money.

• 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. If your work has not been selected and you would not like to be considered for publication for a future issue, please withdraw your Submittable entry after the results are 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 Winter 2019 issue, slated for release on 17 January, 2019. Please look for the list of winners in our Winter 2019 issue. We will not be communicating decisions via Submittable.

Find the results of the first, second, and third ‘Close Approximations’ contest (as well as links to the winning entries) here, 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).

Submissions to the contest are already open; you may already enter the contest via Submittable. If, after reading through these guidelines carefully, you still have any query about the contest, please write us at

Are you excited about this opportunity? Help spread the word by downloading our flyer here and putting it up at your university department/café/local bookstore

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