Translation Award Winner Tells Story of Afghan Refugee

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Reading stories from other languages gives you amazing insight into the lives of people from other cultures. However, unfortunately it can be difficult to get people in English-speaking countries to read literature that has been translated from another language.

In fact, according to the Guardian, only 3% of the books, poems and stories published in the UK are translations. Since 1996, The Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation has been awarded every two years to highlight the best young adult translations and to encourage more translations in the future.

This year’s winner was translated from Italian, but the story it tells begins in Afghanistan. “In the Sea There Are Crocodiles” is based on the life of Enaiatollah Akbari, an Afghan teenager. In 2002, his home village fell to the Taliban. Hoping for a better life for her son, his mother left him in Pakistan to fend for himself at the age of 10, then went home to Afghanistan to care for his younger siblings.

The young boy journeyed through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Greece before finally finding asylum in Italy. The book tells his story, as narrated to author Fabio Geda.

The English version was translated by Howard Curtis. Translating literature can be difficult, as word choice matters so much. In the Guardian, Curtis described how he translated the original text:

“In translating the book I had to remember that this was a story told aloud by someone talking about their real experiences, not a carefully written story in which every word had to sound perfect. In other words I had to find the boy’s voice.”

He also told the Guardian that he’s glad the Marsh Prize is there to highlight the hard work of translators everywhere:

“I’m always grateful for anything that highlights an activity that’s mostly done in the shadows. I’m grateful on behalf of all translators – we all require a little attention from time to time.”

Congratulations, Mr. Curtis. We couldn’t agree more!

Photo Credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by Brandi Jordan