March 6, 2020

PEN America Translation Prize, Judged by MS in Translation Faculty Members Elizabeth Lowe and Jenny McPhee, Awarded to Allison Markin Powell

On the evening of March 2, the 2020 PEN America Literary Awards were announced at a Radio City Music Hall ceremony hosted by Seth Myers. PEN is an international non-profit committed to fostering and perpetuating the ideal of freedom of expression. This year, two members of the CALA MS in Translation (MST) faculty, Elizabeth Lowe and Jenny McPhee, participated in judging the Translation Prize for a book-length work of prose published in 2019. The award went to The Ten Loves of Nishino by Hiromi Kawakami, translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell.    

In a joint reflection, Lowe and McPhee shed light on their experience as judges of this prestigious competition.“We were given a total of about 192 books in translation from all over the world to review among the six-person jury,” Lowe and McPhee explained. “The first challenge was to decide on a process, since we had a short timeline to come up with first a longlist of 10 books, then a shortlist of five and finally, a nomination for the winner.” The judges communicated regularly via Zoom and a Google doc, comparing impressions of the submissions as they read. They were pleasantly surprised to find how easily this simple process yielded consensus.  

While the judging process went smoothly, it also raised interesting questions about the contemporary field of translation. Lowe and McPhee discussed “the importance of translation prizes in bringing greater exposure to translation and translators, the ethical responsibility of judges, and the question of whether there is a contemporary aesthetics of translation” with their fellow judges. “We noticed we were all drawn to translations which preserved something of the original language and culture.” 

Overall, both Lowe and McPhee found the judging process to be intellectually stimulating and professionally rewarding. “It was a great experience that allowed us to share the importance of translation with the world,” they said, “and also to get to know colleagues who are deeply committed to the field.” 


A translation degree can help you to take charge of your career, whether you are new to the field or already working in the language professions. Apply for CALA’s MS in Translation & Interpreting, a fully online, 36-credit graduate degree.

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