Translator Kate Briggs among this year’s Windham-Campbell prize winners

Briggs, whose book This Little Art focuses on the ‘strangenesses and paradoxes’ of translation, wins one of eight $165,000 grants aiming to give authors financial independence

Translator Kate Briggs, seeing an email from the prize’s director, thought she was going to be asked to present a prize; she had no expectation that $165,000 was shortly going to be hers.

One of the world’s richest literary awards, the Windham-Campbell prizes give an unrestricted grant of $165,000 to eight writers each year, celebrating “extraordinary literary achievement” by allowing them to “focus on their work independent of financial concerns”. This year’s recipients range from Briggs to the 85-year-old American memoirist Vivian Gornick.

Briggs, who was born in the UK and now lives and teaches in Rotterdam, has published one book of her own, This Little Art, a mix of memoir and history about the art of literary translation, and has also translated writers including Roland Barthes and Michel Foucault. She described herself as “astonished by the news” of her win.

“I got an email from the director of the prize, saying could we set up a phone call, and that he had some some great news,” she said. “At that point, I was thinking, well, it probably means something like they want me to present a prize, or translate something. I didn’t think it was really happening.”

The Windham-Campbell prize called This Little Art a “brilliant” book which “defies categorisation”, and “articulates and refracts the many strangenesses and paradoxes of translation as a practice and an art”. Briggs said she was very “conscious of the fact that I’m at the beginning of my writing and translating life”, and the prize “really didn’t feel like anything within the horizons of my expectations for my work”.

“Obviously the financial aspect is transformative, but also the recognition is deeply meaningful,” she said. “I’ve published one book under my own name, and translations, so to have it at this point where I feel like I’ve relatively recently come to think of myself as a writer in the full sense is a very powerful thing … I don’t expect to ever stop feeling astonished! Or grateful. It is the most unexpected gift of freedom and permission.” The prizes were dreamed up by partners Donald Windham and Sandy M Campbell, book lovers and collectors who had long discussed setting up an award highlighting literary achievement, and allowing writers to focus on their work. When Campbell died unexpectedly in 1988, Windham turned the dream into a reality, with the first prizes announced in 2013. Previous recipients include Bhanu Khapil, Tessa Hadley and Edmund de Waal.

Source: The Guardian