The Lois Roth Prize for Literary Translation from Persian to English

The Lois Roth Prize for Literary Translation from Persian to English is awarded by a jury appointed by the American Institute of Iranian Studies. This prize was established in memory of Lois Roth, whose interest in and affection for Iran and Iranian culture dates back to the late 1960s, when she lived and worked in Iran as Assistant, and then Deputy Cultural Attache, in the USIA and as Director of the Iran America Society. At that time Lois was one of a group of persons who helped initiate and encourage the foundation of the American Institute of Iranian Studies (or AIIrS). After her untimely death in 1986, the Lois Roth Endowment was created. Since 1999 this endowment has included, among many contributions to international programs, funding for the Lois Roth Persian Translation Prize of the AIIrS. The prize is awarded in recognition of demonstrated excellence in translating Persian (including Tajik) literature into English.

The American Institute of Iranian Studies is pleased to announce the tenth Lois Roth Award for Literary Translation to:

Vis and Ramin by Fakhraddin Gorgani, translated by Dick Davis and published in Washington D.C. by Mage Publishers in 2008, and then re-issued by Penguin Classics in 2009.

In recent years, the crop of translations of both modern and pre-modern Persian works of literature has been particularly rich. Among these, Dick Davis' translation of Vis And Ramin stands out for the contribution it makes to the history of modern English letters, rendering the Persian text into a charming, fluid and suspenseful rhyming verse English poem, a virtuosic narrative feat smoothly sustained throughout its nearly 500 pages. With an erudite yet very elegant introduction, Davis sets the work solidly in dialogue with the Greek novels of late antiquity and with the medieval romances of Europe, paving the way for this unique Parthian romance, in Gorgani's eleventh-century retelling, to assume its rightful place in the canon of world literature, and in the wider literary curriculum.Davis'translation, beginning with the story proper, is informed by the latest scholarship, yet presents the reader--even those Anglophone readers who may not have the habit of reading long narrative poems in verse--with an engagingly attractive and deceptively simple language that draws us magnetically onward into the thick of the plot, with its unexpected twists and turns. The publication of excerpts of Davis' translation of Vis and Ramin in The Hudson Review and The New Criterion and its adoption into the Penguin Classics series demonstrate how this most prolific of contemporary translators is helping to win anew a wider appreciation and public readership for works of Persian literature in English.

The prize is awarded in memory of Lois Roth, whose interest in and affection for Iran and Iranian culture dates back to the late 1960s when she lived and worked in Iran as Assistant and then Deputy Cultural Attaché in the USIA and as Director of the Iran America Society. At that time Lois Roth was one of a group of persons who helped initiate and encourage the foundation of the American Institute of Iranian Studies. After her death in 1986 the Lois Roth Endowment was created. Since 1999 the Endowment has included, among many contributions to international programs, funding for the Lois Roth Persian Translation Prize, which is awarded by a jury selected by the American Institute of Iranian Studies, in recognition of demonstrated excellence in translation of a work of Perisan literature into literary English.

The American Institute of Iranian Studies is pleased to announce the ninth annual Lois Roth Persian Translation Prize. The Roth Prize is given in recognition of demonstrated excellence in translating Persian literature into English, and is funded by a contribution from the Lois Roth Endowment to the American Institute of Iranian Studies.

The statement of the Lois Roth jury award for 2009 follows:   

Some great poets never find their perfect match in a translator who can render them as an essential poet in a new language.  In the case of European masterworks, the process of translation frequently assumes the characteristic of a collective project, one  to which many different hands - or voices - contribute over time and help refine.  In the case of poets working in non-western languages, this is not so often the case - and a single anthology in translation is all to which a poet can aspire.  

Rarely do we encounter a contemporary Persian poet with the rich and multiple translation history that Forugh Farrokhzad has enjoyed.  Her best poems place her squarely within the pantheon of the foremost poets of world  literature writing in the twentieth century.  Now, in Sholeh Wolpe's recent selection of Farrokhzad's poems, Sin (University of Arkansas Press, 2008), we find English versions fully in tune with the vibrant idioms of contemporary American poetry. An outstanding translation often creates the possibility for a fresh encounter with an oft-read original text.  In Wolpe's fresh and vital translation, a musical and compelling English version that draws the reader along and captures a sense of the exquisitely balanced pacing of Farrokhzad's language, and the immediacy and authenticity of her voice, the members of the Lois Roth jury found themselves experiencing Forugh's Persian poems with new eyes. 

Wolpe's Sin is a convincing poetic translation, one that should help Farrokhzad claim her rightful place in the international canon of poetry. And we hope it will open the door in broader poetry circles for fresh translations of other modern and classical Persian poets.

Previous Lois Roth Persian Translation Prize awardees include:
 

2008   Translating the Garden, Shahrokh Meskoob (Dialogue in the Garden

 Tr. Mohammad Ghanoonparvar (University of Texas Press, 2001)

2006    A Cup of Sin: Selected Poems, Simin Behbahani, 

Ed. and Translated by Farzaneh Milani & Kaveh Safa (Syracuse University Press, 1999). 


2005    The Masnavi, Book 1, Jalal al-Din Rumi

Translated by Jawid Mojaddedi (Oxford University Press, 2003)


2004    The Haft Paykar: A Medieval Persian Romance, Nizami

Translated by Julie Meisami (Oxford: Oxford World Classics, 1995) 

 

2003   The Sands of Oxus: Boyhood Reminiscences of Sadriddin Aini 

Translated by John Perry and Rachel Lehr (Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Books, 1998)


2002   In the Dragon's Claws: the Story of Rostam & Esfandiyar, Ferdowsi

 Translated by Jerome W. Clinton. (Washington, DC : Mage Publishers, 1999)

2001   The Conference of the Birds, Farid al-Din Attar

 Translated by Afkham Darbandi and Dick Davis (Harmondsworth, Middlesex/New York: Penguin, 1984)

2000   My Uncle Napoleon, Iraj Pezeshkzad

Translated by Dick Davis (Washington, DC: Mage Publishers, 1996)