Creative Writing M.F.A. Student Wins Albertine Prize
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – J.T. Mahany, an M.F.A. student in the Program in Creative Writing and Translation in the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences, has won the prestigious Albertine Prize for his translation of the novel Bardo or Not Bardo by French author Antoine Volodine. Mahany’s translation beat out nine other finalists, which had been shortlisted for the prize by the French Embassy in the United States.
According to the website, 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.
“Our creative writing students continue to distinguish themselves on the national — and international — stage,” said Dorothy Stephens, chair of the Department of English. “We’re tremendously proud of J.T.’s accomplishment and excited for the spotlight that it shines on literary translation.”
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).
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 these 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 won the creative writing program’s 2016 Miller Williams Prize for translation and was recently awarded a Lily Peter Fellowship. He 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 consistently ranks in 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.
About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among only 2 percent of universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring.
Allison Hammond, assistant director
Program in Creative Writing
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