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School awards Radke prize in translation

April 12, 2013

Translation, the rendering of text from one language into another, is an art and a science, a skill and a craft, a talent and the result of hard work. It is through translation that many speakers of English met the hunchback of Notre Dame, the girl with the dragon tattoo, Achilles, or Du Fu. A good translation can open a whole world of literature to readers the world over. In order to encourage and reward skill in translation, the School of International Letters and Cultures offers an annual prize in translation, in honor and memory of Judith Radke.

Radke, professor emerita of French, passed away in May 2008. She received her doctorate in twentieth-century French literature from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and taught French literature for many years at ASU, eventually founding the translation program along with Maureen Ahearn and Laurel Rodd. She was known for her translations of Andrée Chédid's works.  

After Radke's death, her sister and several friends established the Judith Radke Award in Translation to encourage students to pursue excellence in translation. The first winner of the prize was Diane Goullard in 2010, for her translation of selections of Maurice Denis's journal from French into English. She was followed in 2011 by Ryan Robbins for his translation of “Zhuge Liang Burns the Village at Bowang,” a medieval Chinese play.

The 2012 winner of the award is Brandon Geist, who translated "Trapped" from a Japanese short story by Hirano Keiichirō. This story is in the form of a palindrome, in that it leads up to a critical event, which forms the pivot of the story. Although the sentences that follow are the same as those that lead up to the event, they take on a completely different meaning. In giving the award to Geist, the committee noted how adroitly he transmitted the "creepiness" of the original.  

"[I am] grateful to have received the Judith Radke Translation Award," says Geist. "Translation often goes unappreciated, and this generous award legitimizes it as an academic pursuit. The award is a great opportunity to be recognized for creative and scholarly work, and I hope that it encourages other students to produce high-quality literary translations."

"The Judith Radke award is a great way for the hard work and long hours many grad students put into their translation and research to get some kind of recognition," says Robbins. Obviously much of what we do in our coursework is neither lengthy nor complete enough for publication or other formal means of getting work out for exposure and examination outside of individual interactions with professors for whom/with whom the coursework is completed. It’s a chance to really polish something of manageable size into an appreciable product."

Goullard says the award is a "gift of a compliment of excellence."

The competition for the 2013 Judith Radke award is now accepting applications. In order to apply, translators must be registered in a degree-seeking graduate program in the School of International Letters and Cultures. Translations must be from a scholarly or literary work into English. However, the source language need not be the language of the program in which an applicant is registered. More information as well as additional requirements can be found here, or from the committee chair at