The jury for the Helen and Kurt Wolff Translation Prize awarded the prize for 2010 to Jean Snook for her translation of Gert Jonke’s The Distant Sound.
The Austrian novelist, poet, and playwright Gert Jonke (1946-2009) wrote a German rich in descriptive detail and evocative sound effects that Snook has rendered with perfect skill into an English as poetic, funny, and crazy as the original.
In long, spooling sentences and synaesthetic images, she gives English-speaking readers access to a writer who deserves a place next to better-known contemporaries such as Thomas Bernhard and Arno Schmidt. Snook makes the tightrope act of translating Jonke’s exploration of language as a means of capturing the ineffable look effortless, according to Chicago Public Media.
Snook began translating Jonke’s The Distant Sound during a stay at the Europäisches Übersetzerkollegium in Straelen, Germany, in 2007, and finished the translation in 2009, when it won the inaugural Austrian Cultural Forum Translation Prize. Her translation of the third book in Jonke’s trilogy, Awakening to the Great Sleep War, is due to appear later in 2011. She is now translating a book by the Swiss author Paul Nizon.
The translator of the winning Helen and Kurt Wolff Translation receives $10,000. The prize was established in 1996 and is administered by the Goethe-Institut Chicago. It is funded by the German government.