Monday 25 November 2013


Orwell Honoured In Burma

Nearly 80 years after George Orwell’s Burmese Days first hit bookshelves in 1934, it has won the highest literary award in the country where it's set.

The Burmese Ministry of Information announced last week that the unabridged Burmese translation of Orwell's novel was the winner of the 2012 National Literary Award’s informative literature (translation) category. 

The translator, Maung Myint Kywe, told The Irrawaddy newspaper: "I thought the Burmese should read it, and so I translated it." He considers Burmese Days a scathing portrait of both the British and the Burmese. He said his intention in translating the book was partially to inform young people about how the Burmese were discriminated against under British rule: "But Orwell is unbiased, even though he himself is British. He has fairly portrayed how bad the British were, as well as we Burmese, too."

Htay Maung, the chairman of the judges, said Burmese Days was the unanimous choice of his 10-member panel: "We all believed that, contrary to other books on Burma by the British, the novel is quite balanced. Plus, the Burmese translation style is OK and conveys the meaning of the writer well.”

According to The Irrawaddy, translations of both Burmese Days and Nineteen Eighty-Four were last available in Burma in the 1960s, but then all editions were pulped - criticism of the Burmese in Burmese Days and the satirical view of dictatorship in Nineteen Eighty-Four would not have made it past the former regime’s censors.  But after the easing of literary censorship last year the Law Ka Thit publishing house published translations of both. Win Tin, publisher at Law Ka Thit, told The Irrawaddy: “I wanted to publish those books for a long time. I feel glad one of the books I’ve published has won the highest prize in the country, but I’m wondering: what’s wrong with Nineteen Eighty-Four?"

The Golden Point Award

Singapore has four major languages, English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. The Golden Point Award is the country's premier creative writing competition for short stories and poetry; winners in each category are announced in each of the four languages. Organised by Singapore's National Arts Council, the biennial competition aims to promote new creative writing and to nurture local literary talent by providing the opportunity for unpublished writers to be evaluated by a professional jury. Winners of the 2013 prizes were announced earlier this month, and the winning stories and poems in each language can be read here

Finn Writing About Mongolia

It's probably not often you find Finns writing in Finnish about Mongolia, but Rosa Liksom’s Hytti Nro. 6 translated by Lola Rogers, and published by UK-based Serpent’s Tail as Compartment No. 6, has just won a Writers in Translation award from English PEN.    

According to the blurb, Compartment No. 6 concerns a young woman fleeing a broken relationship, who boards a train in Moscow, bound for Mongolia. She chooses an empty compartment – no. 6.  But her solitude is soon shattered by the arrival of Vadim Nikolayevich Ivanov, a grizzled, opinionated, and foul-mouthed ex-soldier. As their train cuts slowly across a wintry Russia, towards Mongolia, a grudging kind of companionship grows between the two passengers, and the girl realises that if she works out how to listen, Vadim's stories might just contain lessons for her.

Translation in Korea

The Korea Times reports disappointment in the 2013 Modern Korean Literature Translation Awards, which received only 23 entries,10 of them poetry, although: "it is generally agreed that it is far more difficult to translate a few lines of poetry adequately than the many pages of a work of fiction." As to the fiction, the paper reported that the translations were adequate, but the judges did not read many with pleasure: "That was in part the fault of the translator who failed to create a convincing English style, and in part the fault of the author whose work did not lend itself to translation." Somewhat grudgingly, it seems, the judges awarded the Grand Prize to the translator of Jeong Chan's novel A Report to an Academy.  The Korea Times does not name this translator, and I could not discover his or her identity on-line, but apparently he or she produced a translation that: "reads so well that one can easily forget that it is a translation."