UConn graduate students win literary translation awards

 Two graduate students at the University of Connecticut recently received awards from the PEN American Center for their work in the field of literary translation. Brian Sneeden translated the works of fellow writer Phoebe Giannisi. (File)

Two graduate students at the University of Connecticut recently received awards from the PEN American Center for their work in the field of literary translation. Brian Sneeden translated the works of fellow writer Phoebe Giannisi. (File)

Two graduate students at the University of Connecticut recently received awards from the PEN American Center for their work in the field of literary translation.

Peter Constantine, former recipient of the PEN/Book-of-the-Month Club Translation Prize and the director of the literary translation program at UConn, said PEN is “among the largest and most influential organizations in the United States dedicated to promoting international literature.”

Brian Sneeden, a PhD student in English, was awarded a 2018 PEN/Heim grant for $2,800, which will allow him to continue his translation of “Rhapsodia” by the Greek poet Phoebe Giannisi, according to the PEN American site. Sneeden also recently had two of his books, “The Last City” and “Homerica,” published. 

Jeanna Bonner, a PhD student in Italian studies, won the 2018 PEN Grant for English Translation of Italian Literature for $5,000 for her translation of “A Walk in the Shadows” by Mariateresa Di Lascia, according to the PEN American site. Sneeden said Bonner’s work is the first time this piece has been translated into the English language. 

According to the PEN American site, Sneeden and Bonner were among 13 applicants chosen out of 177 entrants from across the globe.

Sneeden said the application process is extensive, including 10 to 20 pages of translated work, the original piece that the applicant is translating, a background of the applicant’s translation experience and a cover letter explaining why the translated work is important and how it relates to the writer and their audience.

“It’s actually a bit more involved than your average competition because it has to be a work in progress,” Sneeden said. “It’s not just a selection of five poems that you’re sending into a poetry contest or a translation contest. It’s selections from a book of work.”

Sneeden said the grants support the work of students such as himself, with half of the money being received up front to support development of the proposed project and the rest presented at its completion.

“I’m of course going to use … this summer to really dig in, get rid of all distractions, lock myself in a room and just translate this amazing book (“Rhapsodia”),” Sneeden said.

Sneeden said the literary translation program at UConn helped him reach this achievement, and that it supports others as well across a multitude of academic backgrounds.

“(Students in the literary translation program) are students from engineering, science backgrounds and math backgrounds. All these translators are having this opportunity through the literary translation program to connect to each other and get out of the bubbles of our own field and interact in a very creative environment,” Sneeden said. ”I encourage anyone who is interested to get in early.”