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On August 16, 2023, I attended the 13th annual award ceremony of the Gutekunst Prize which was held at the Goethe Institut in New York. This year’s winner was Betsy Carter for her translation of an excerpt from Simone Scharbert’s novel Rosa in Grau. Eine Heimsuchung which was published in 2022.

The ceremony was attended by Mariella de Carvalho, Head of Cultural Affairs and Science Department for the German Consulate of New York, David Detjen of the non-profit organization Friends of Goethe New York which funds the prize and by the noted German translator Alta Price, herself a former recipient of the prize. Danielle Drori, a scholar of Modern Hebrew literature, also spoke about the intersection of translation and politics.

The Gutekunst prize was established in 2010 in memory of Frederick and Grace Gutekunst with the goal of identifying outstanding young translators of German literature into English. The competition is open to college students and to translators under the age of 35 who have not yet published a book-length translation. The award seeks not only to honor the translator for an outstanding translation but also to assist young translators in establishing contact with the translation and publishing communities.

In 2023 there were 20 applicants for the prize, each of whom had to submit a translation of a 10-page excerpt from Ms. Scharbert’s novel. The assignment was not an easy one since Ms. Schargert’s novel is often fragmentary in nature. It portrays the thoughts and recollections of a woman who has been in and out of mental institutions while struggling to raise a young daughter. The novel is set in 1950’s Germany in which the trauma of World War II is still fresh in the minds of the inhabitants. The novel contains flashbacks and hallucinatory episodes which present notable challenges to the translator as do its various cultural references, some of which are pulled from the worlds of music and history.

Ms. Price described how Betsy Carter had effectively captured the voice of the troubled middle-class mid-twentieth century narrator. Her translation was able to successfully reflect the more formal tone of a woman of the era while still translating the test into an idiomatic English. Betsy Carter then spoke to the audience about the experience of translating this novel. One of her goals was to keep the sound and rhythm of the original German while making its cultural references meaningful to an English-speaking audience.

Ms. Carter is a Ph.D. student in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) at the University of Arizona and a graduate associate teacher with the university’s Department of German Studies. She holds a master’s degree in German studies from the University of Colorado Boulder and a bachelor’s degree from Brown. Her award-winning translation is available on the Goethe Institut New York website. The translated title of the book is “Rosy Shades of Darkness. A Tribulation.”


Patricia Stumpp



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