Tuesday, 14/11/2023 16:42

Vietnamese translator won the US National Translation Award

TUCSON – Nguyễn An Lý became the first Vietnamese translator to receive the National Translation Award in Prose with her translation of the novel Phố Tàu (Chinatown).

The cover of Chinatown fiction by Thuận, translated into English by Nguyễn An Lý. Photo New Directions Publishing.

Chinatown, written by Vietnamese author Thuận, was translated from Vietnamese into English by Lý and published in the United States by New Directions & Tilted Axis Publishing in 2022. 

This novel is also her first English translation.

Chinatown begins when the main character – a Vietnamese woman and her mother get stuck on a subway train as it is suspected of being attacked. 

Within two hours, the character unceasingly reflects on her life, about the past and present, as well as haunting and tormented memories of her predicaments and love affairs.

The novel impresses readers with an exceptional experiment in structure – it is a novel without line breaks.

“The premise of Chinatown promises claustrophobia: a Vietnamese woman trapped in the Paris metro by a suspect package, possibly a bomb. Thuận's novel, though, brought to us by Nguyễn An Lý’s sweeping, melodic phrasing, is anything but sedentary: who knew reverie could be this fast-moving, this suspenseful?” the representative of judges wrote about the translation of Lý and Thuận’s novel.  

Born in Hà Nội, Lý is living in HCM City, working as a translator and editor.  

She graduated in Literature from Hà Nội National University in 2007, then completed a master's degree in Literature specialising in post-colonialism at York University, British in 2010.

Lý mostly translates from English to Vietnamese, with over 20 translations published in various genres by world-renowned authors such as Margaret Atwood, George Orwell, Kazuo Ishiguro, Borges, and Amos Oz. 

Additionally, she has worked as an editor on translations by Nabokov, Roland Barthes, and Joseph Campbell, among others. 

Following Chinatown, Lý will translate another work by Thuận into English. 

Thuận, whose real name is Đoàn Văn Thuận, is considered as a pioneer in contemporary Vietnamese literature. She was born in 1967 in Hà Nội and currently lives in Paris. 

Chinatown was published in Việt Nam by Đà Nẵng Publishing House in 2005. 

Her other published novels in Việt Nam include Made in Vietnam, Paris 11 tháng 8 (Paris On August 11), T mất tích (missing T), Vân Vy, Thang máy Sài Gòn (Sài Gòn’s Elevator), Chỉ còn 4 ngày là hết tháng Tư (Four Days Left Of April) and Thư gửi Mina (Letters to Mina).

In 2006, she was granted the Writers’ Union Prize by the Việt Nam Writers Association, the highest award in Vietnamese literature.

Administrated by the American Literary Translators Association, the National Translation Award is an annual national award in the United States for translated fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction. 

The award recognises literary translators who have made a significant impact on worldwide English literature by expertly replicating the artistic energy of a book of superlative quality in two categories – poetry and prose. – VNS. 

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