The 2014 PEN Award for poetry in translation for Diaries of Exile (Archipelago $15) by Yannis Ritsos has been awarded to Karen Emmerich, a 2000 Princeton alumna who will join Princeton University as an assistant professor in comparative literature in February 2015, and Edmund Keeley, the Charles Barnwell Straut Class of 1923 Professor of English, Emeritus, and professor of English and creative writing, emeritus. The award, which is accompanied by a $3,000 prize conferred in New York, recognizes book-length translations of poetry from any language into English published during the current calendar year.
Diaries of Exile presents a series of three diaries in poetry that Ritsos wrote between 1948 and 1950, during and just after the Greek Civil War, while he was a political prisoner first on the island of Limnos and then at the camp on Makronisos. These poems offer glimpses into the daily routine of life in exile, the violence that Ritsos and his fellow prisoners endured, the fluctuations in the prisoners’ sense of solidarity, and the struggle to maintain their humanity through language.
Ms. Emmerich majored in comparative literature at Princeton, earned certificates in Hellenic Studies and creative writing, was a postdoctoral research fellow in the Program in Hellenic Studies in 2010-11. Her translations from Greek include books by Margarita Karapanou, Amanda Michalopoulou, Ersi Sotiropoulos, and Vassilis Vassilikos. Her translation of Poems (1945-1971) by Miltos Sachtouris was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. She has received translation grants and awards from PEN, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Modern Greek Studies Association. She is currently a faculty member of the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of Oregon.
Director Emeritus of the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University and the author of eight novels, 15 volumes of poetry and fiction in translation, and ten volumes of non-fiction, Mr. Keeley has collaborated on translations of other modern Greek poets, including C. P. Cavafy and the Nobel laureates George Seferis and Odysseas Elytis. He received the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation, and his translations of Yannis Ritsos earned him both the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award of the Academy of American Poets and the First European Prize for the Translation of Poetry. In 1999 he received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
According to Stephanos Papadopoulos in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Emmerich and Keeley’s “beautiful translation” of Diaries of Exile “opens up this unique poetic memoir to an English audience. What is remarkable about these poems is that in spite of the critical situation, Ritsos managed to find moments of painfully accurate beauty in observation of his suffering, the mark of a true poet.”
Other recipients of 2014 PEN Literary Awards include poet Frank Bidart, Tony Award-winning playwright David Rabe, journalist and cultural critic James Wolcott, Nina McConigley for her debut short story collection, and playwright Laura Marks who will receive the inaugural award honoring an emerging dramatist. The award winners will be honored at the 2014 PEN Literary Awards Ceremony on Monday, September 29, 2014, at The New School’s Auditorium at 66 West 12th Street in New York City.
The full list of winners can be found online.