It was a joy to be at the presentation of the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation on Wednesday evening. This was the 20th anniversary of the award, and all those involved spoke about how the landscape of translated books for children has changed in those twenty years. This year’s entries included more languages than ever, and an array of books that have long been classics in their original languages, but only just becoming available for English-speaking children.
Held, as ever, in the splendid Dartmouth House, where I always feel rather as though I’m inside a Christmas cake, the ceremony was a positive, outward-looking event. This comes at a time when politics on either side of the Atlantic have become thoroughly depressing, leaving me in little mind for blogging – where everything would become a rant – and with little headspace for anything but uplifting reading… Funny books, including a lot of Discworld and PG Wodehouse, have become my lifeline.
It seems to me that if there is any hope for us, it must lie in bringing up our children to undo the mess we currently seem to be making of things. And in that, an openness to the world has got to be positive. So children’s books in translation are more important than ever. Bridges, not walls, and all that.
It was also lovely to see the finished copies of the translation special edition of Riveting Reads, the School Library Association journal, edited by Daniel Hahn and Joy Court, and born out of a challenge issued by Kevin Crossley-Holland at this event two years ago.
Anyway, back to the presentation: Gillian Lathey – who first inspired my interest in translating for children back during my MA – admitted that she had always wanted to say: “And the winner is…”
And the winner was Helen Wang, for Bronze and Sunflower by Cao Wenxaun, Walker Books, 2016 (translated from Mandarin Chinese).
Fellow judge Wendy Cooling said, it is “a warm, delightful book set in the countryside of China during the Cultural Revolution. Strong, well-drawn relationships, tough enough to survive anything, are at the heart of the story and carry the reader through great hardship”.
I’m delighted for Helen, who spoke of the award as vindicating her decision to get back into translation, and showing that what we do really matters.
The Ears of the Hippopotamus and other matters: The Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation 2013