Fellowships & Grants

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ASF Awards Translation Prizes to Maija Liisa Mäkinen & Melissa Bowers

The American-Scandinavian Foundation has announced the winners of its 37th annual Translation Competition for outstanding translations of poetry, fiction, drama, or literary prose written by a Scandinavian author born after 1900. Two translation prizes are offered each year by the ASF: the Nadia Christensen Prize, and the Leif and Inger Sjöberg Award, which recognizes distinguished effort by a translator who has not previously published a literary translation from a Nordic language. Since 1980, the work of nearly 50 translators has been recognized through the ASF translation competition.

The winners this year were Maija Liisa Mäkinen (Brooklyn, New York) and Melissa Bowers (Seattle, Washington). Ms. Mäkinen received the Nadia Christensen Prize for her translation of an excerpt from Pelon maantiede (Geography of Fear), by Finnish author Anja Snellman (b. 1954). The ASF Translation Prize Jury praised Ms. Mäkinen: “The translator has masterfully infused the English with all the confidence, forcefulness, and fluidity demanded by this intriguing and hard-hitting feminist thriller, Geography of Fear, by acclaimed Finnish author Anja Snellman. This is an impressively skillful and bold translation of an unsettling novel that combines elements of philosophy, psychology, and suspense. Only one of Snellman’s many novels has previously been translated into English, but she clearly deserves a much wider audience.”

Ms. Mäkinen has an MFA in Fiction from Boston University. Her writings and translations have been featured in Gulf Coast, Transnational Literature, Best New Writing, Anglistica AION, and The Nassau Review among others. She is the winner of the Leslie Epstein Global Fellowship, Boston University Creative Writing Graduate Fellowship, and University of Cambridge Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize.

As the winner, Mrs. Mäkinen received a $2,500 honorarium and a commemorative bronze medallion.

The Leif and Inger Sjöberg Award, recognizing distinguished effort by a translator who has not previously published a literary translation, was given to Melissa Bowers, from Seattle, Washington, for her translation of Vittnen till meningslösa händelser (Witness to Meaningless Events) by Swedish Poet Jasim Mohamed (b. 1962).

The Jury commended Ms. Bowers for her exceptional work, “With precision and careful attention to the cadence of the original Swedish, the translator has matched in English the poignancy of these poems, which so powerfully convey the struggle of refugees seeing safety and a new life. These striking translations introduce readers of English to the work of Jasim Mohamed, who was born in Iraq and is now one of Sweden’s most important contemporary poets.”

Ms. Bowers is currently working toward an MFA in literary translation at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She has studied Swedish at Seattle’s Scandinavian Language Institute, Swedish Club and in Uppsala, Sweden at International Summer Session (UISS). She is a member of American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) and Swedish Translators in North America (STiNA).

Ms. Bowers received a $2,000 honorarium and a commemorative bronze medallion.

Excerpts of both translations will appear in an upcoming issue of Scandinavian Review, the journal published by The American-Scandinavian Foundation.

The American-Scandinavian Foundation (ASF), incorporated in New York State in 1911, is the leading cultural and educational link between the U.S. and the Nordic countries. A publicly-supported American nonprofit organization, the ASF works to build international understanding through an extensive program of fellowships, grants, intern/trainee sponsorship, publishing, and membership offerings and through its cultural center in New York City: Scandinavia House: The Nordic Center in America. The ASF translation prizes are awarded annually for the best translation of poetry, fiction, drama, or literary prose originally written in a Nordic language by a Scandinavian author born after 1900.