Current Student Simon Leser '19 Wins PEN America Translation Award

BY Zoe Contros Kearl, December 7, 2018

Current Student Simon Leser '19 won the PEN America Translation Grant for his translation of Of Our Wounded Brothers by Joseph Andras.


Set during the Algerian War, Andras’s novel tells the true story of Fernand Iveton, an Algerian-French factory worker sentenced to death and guillotined in 1957 for a principled act of political sabotage. This is the rare political novel in which the political and artistic elements are not kept side by side, but entirely fused. Andras (who writes under a pen name) is himself no stranger to symbolic acts. He was awarded the 2016 Prix Goncourt but turned it down three days later, unleashing a minor media frenzy.


Now in its sixteenth year, the PEN/Heim Translation Fund awards grants to promote the publication and reception of translated world literature in English. It was established in the summer of 2003 by a gift from Priscilla and Michael Henry Heim in response to the dismayingly low number of literary translations appearing in English. The Translation Fund received a large number of applications this year—237 in total—from a wide array of languages of origin, genres, and time periods. From this vast field of applicants, the Fund’s Advisory Board has selected 10 projects, spanning 8 different languages, including French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Indonesian, Chinese, Danish, and Hungarian. Each project will receive a grant of $3,500 to assist in its completion, and the winner of the Italian Literature grant will receive a $5,000 grant. 


“In Leser’s crisp, lyrical translation, Of Our Wounded Brothers ticks like the time bomb at its heart, giving voice to Iveton and his wife, Hélène, and throwing the tragedy of the Algerian struggle into sharp relief,” PEN America wrote in their announcement of this award.


Joseph Andras (b. 1984) is a French writer who lives in Le Havre.


Leser is a writer, translator, and editor from Paris, France.