Creative Writing M.F.A. Student a Finalist for Albertine Prize

M.F.A. translation student J.T. Mahany
Photo by Russell Cothren, University Relations

M.F.A. translation student J.T. Mahany

J.T. Mahany, an M.F.A. student in the Program in Creative Writing and Translation in the Department of English at the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, has been named a finalist in the prestigious Albertine Prize for his translation of the novel Bardo or Not Bardo by French author Antoine Volodine.

Mahany's translation is one of three books vying for the prize — which is determined by popular vote — between now and April 30.

Issued through the French Embassy in the United States, the Albertine Prize "recognizes American readers' favorite work of contemporary Francophone fiction while encouraging the discovery of new literary voices, translated and published in the U.S. in the past year."

The winning book receives $10,000 to be split between the author and translator. 

"This is a distinguished prize, and we're thrilled that J.T.'s work is being recognized and promoted," said Davis McCombs, director of the Program in Creative Writing and Translation. "He's both a gifted and prolific translator, and he clearly has a bright future ahead."

The Albertine Prize competition opened in mid-March with 10 titles. That shortlist was whittled down by popular vote to three: Bardo or Not Bardo; Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi (Jeffrey Zuckerman, translator); and The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal (Sam Taylor, translator).

Anyone in the United States can vote in the Albertine Prize competition, by visiting the website and entering a valid email address. The final day to vote is this Sunday, April 30.

Bardo or Not Bardo was published in English last year by Open Letter Books. Volodine's absurd and comical book follows recently deceased characters through the Bardo, or Tibetan afterlife, where they are charged to wander 49 days until their rebirth. But second chances aren't enough to save many of the characters, who, after barging through life now bungle their afterlives. 

This novel is Mahany's second foray into publication. In 2015, Open Letter Books published his translation of the Volodine novel Post-Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven. In both books, Volodine's unconventional writing style posed a host of challenges for Mahany as a translator.

"Volodine attempts to write French as if it's a foreign language," he said. "So I had to make the English feel foreign as well," while staying faithful to the style and tone of the original text.

Mahany, who won the creative writing program's 2016 Miller Williams Prize for translation and was recently awarded a Lily Peter Fellowship, is at work on another book, Eleven Sooty Dreams, which Volodine published under the pseudonym Manuela Draeger.

Founded in 1966, the University of Arkansas Program in Creative Writing and Translation in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences consistently ranks among the top 40 M.F.A. programs nationwide, according to Poets & Writers magazine. The Atlantic Monthly named the U of A among the "Top Five Most Innovative" M.F.A. programs in the nation. Noteworthy graduates include Barry Hannah, C.D. Wright, Lucinda Roy, and Nic Pizzolatto.


Allison Hammond, assistant director
Program in Creative Writing and Translation

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