Writing professor Richard Howard was named one of the three winners of this year's French-American Foundation and Florence Gould Foundation’s 25th Annual Translation Prize, which recognizes superior English translations of French works published in 2011. Howard won for his translation of When the World Spoke French by Marc Fumaroli.
Since 1986, the French-American Foundation, with the long-standing support of the Florence Gould Foundation, has awarded annual translation prizes for the best translation from French to English in fiction and nonfiction. The winners and the finalists were honored at the annual Awards Ceremony on May 23, 2012. In each category, the winner is awarded a $10,000 prize, funded by the Florence Gould Foundation. For the nonfiction category, this year’s two winners are splitting the prize.
Jurors for this year’s competition include Linda Asher, David Bellos, Linda Coverdale, Serge Gavronsky, Lorin Stein and Lily Tuck. The other winner in the nonfiction category is Arthur Goldhammer, for his translation of The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution by Alexis de Tocqueville. The winner for fiction is Marina Harss for her translation of The Mirador: Dreamed Memories of Irène Némirovsky by Her Daughter by Elisabeth Gille.
Richard Howard's translation of When the World Spoke French was published by New York Review of Books this past year. His previous work in the art of French translation earned him a National Book Award for Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal. Howard is also the translator of the New York Review of Books Classics Alien Hearts and The Unknown Masterpiece.
During the eighteenth century, from the death of Louis XIV until the Revolution, French culture set the standard for all of Europe. In Sweden, Austria, Italy, Spain, England, Russia and Germany, among kings and queens, diplomats, military leaders, writers, aristocrats and artists, French was the universal language of politics and intellectual life. In When the World Spoke French, Marc Fumaroli presents a gallery of portraits of Europeans and Americans who conversed and corresponded in French, along with excerpts from their letters or other writings.
These men and women, despite their differences, were all irresistibly attracted to the ideal of human happiness inspired by the Enlightenment, whose capital was Paris and whose king was Voltaire. Whether they were in Paris or far away, speaking French connected them in spirit with all those who desired to emulate Parisian tastes, style of life and social pleasures. Their stories are testaments to the appeal of that famous “sweetness of life” nourished by France and its language.