Deadline: 1 October, 2019

We’re thrilled to announce a new contest judged by J. M. Coetzee. Open to translators and non-translators alike, this contest invites essays introducing a writer working in a language other than English whose oeuvre deserves more attention than it currently receives from the English-speaking world. The winner and up to five runners-up will respectively receive 500 USD and 100 USD worth of prizes that include Asymptote Book Club subscriptions.

In addition to receiving prizes, the winners will also be featured in our Winter 2020 issue, joining an exceptional roster of contributors that includes Mario Vargas Llosa, Herta Müller, Can Xue, Ismail Kadare, László Krasznahorkai, Stefan Zweig, Dubravka Ugrešić, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Anita Raja, and Sawako Nakayasu.

About the judge:

J. M. Coetzee was the first author to win the Booker Prize twice and was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2003. He lives in Adelaide.

Photo credit: Bert Nienhaus




Submit an essay between 1,000 and 4,000 words via the ‘Contest’ option of our Submittable page by 1 October, 2019, along with your entry fee of 10 USD

Be sure to note the following guidelines:

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

• Your submission should be saved as one single Word Document under the file name [Country of origin of poet/author_last name of poet/author].doc or [Country of origin of poet/author_last name of poet/author].docx (e.g. Poland_Nowak.docx).

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

• There will be a nonrefundable contest fee of 10 USD. This contest fee is to be paid via Submittable.

• We ask that submissions be limited to introductions of writers who have not yet been translated widely into English but are generally available in their native tongue. As an example, Sappho is considered to be widely published in English so an essay on Sappho would fall outside our remit. In contrast, an author (or a poet, or a dramatist, or a creative nonfiction writer) with only a small fraction of his or her work published in English translation (or none at all) would be a perfect subject for the contest.

• Submissions should not consist of reviews of any one title by the chosen subject; instead they should offer a survey of the writer’s distinctive oeuvre with an eye to piquing the interest of our readers.

• Translations of the subject’s original work may be featured in the essay to give a flavor of the work, but they are neither a necessary component of the essay nor will they form a significant basis of the judging. 

• Applicants to this contest are encouraged to browse through the first ‘Special Feature’ section of all past issues for ‘Writers on Writers’ essays that we have previously published (scroll down the table of contents, and you’ll find it in the second half of the right column).

• Essays 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 an essay is slated for publication in a title that is forthcoming after April 2020, it may be submitted for consideration.

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

• Collaborative essays written by more than one author are not allowed.

• Persons who are currently serving as team members or interns at Asymptote are not eligible to enter this contest. Team members who have stepped down before the announcement of this contest are eligible to submit to 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 will also be eligible to enter this contest.

• Queries about the contest might be sent to

• 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 via to submit your contest entry, citing that you are a sustaining member. 

• If you are currently an Asymptote Book Club member when the results are announced, and you are one of our winners, you may choose either to gift your Asymptote Book Club subscription to someone else or trade your subscription in for equivalent prize money ($180 for the winner and $50 for runners-up).

• Authors of shortlisted essays 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 judge’s decisions are final.

The list of winners will be announced in our 2020 issue, slated for release on 16 January, 2020. We will not be communicating decisions via Submittable.

The fifth edition of our ‘Close Approximations’ translation contest for emerging translators will return next year in time for our special tenth anniversary edition. 

All participants are encouraged to subscribe to our newsletter here to receive contest-related updates along with exclusive Asymptote content and news about occasional giveaways.

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!

If you'd like to support our mission (and make future contests possible), consider giving a one-time donation or becoming a sustaining member. As an organization that is not supported by any institution on an ongoing basis, we rely on donations to keep going. Help us advocate for a more inclusive world literature by getting involved today.