Witness was an Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize Finalist

Witness was one of six worldwide finalists—and the only volume of poetry—for Oxford University’s international Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. At the award ceremony, two of the judges spoke. here’s the relevant portion of their remarks:

Novelist, poet, playwright and translator Adam Thorpe, Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize Judge, Public Remarks at Award Ceremony</a>

Witness by Mario Benedetti is the first major appearance of this important Uruguayan poet in English. The translator Louise Popkin worked closely with Benedetti and is a scholar of Latin American poetry. This formidable expertise, coupled with affection, shows everywhere in these highly sensitive renditions of poems that intertwine the personal and the political: Benedetti’s state of exile and his brushes with Uruguay’s military regime result in a body of work that does not flinch from life’s tendency to shatter dreams of better things. Popkin’s English versions allow the peculiar sadness and nostalgia of the poetry to shine calmly through.

Click here to download a complete PDF transcript of Thorpe’s remarks about all the finalists.

Louise B. Popkin speaks at the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize award ceremony

Louise B. Popkin speaking at Oxford University
Photo credit: April Pierce

Additional remarks at the Award Ceremony by Oxford-Weidenfeld Judge Rebecca Beasley, giving context for the shortlist selection

The novel unsurprisingly was the dominant form, but there were some excellent translations of poetry this year, and we read more drama than we have done in recent years, which was very welcome.

Choosing just six translations from 135 entries took some time and considerable thought and discussion. I will let Adam talk about the shortlist in more detail, but suffice to say that from the many, many excellent translations we read, these six stand out for their remarkably adept, creative versions of their sources, sources which presented considerable challenges to the translator. They are different kinds of challenges—humour, the multiple nuances of poetry, shifting tones, complex characterization.