On 11th June, the translator, novelist and jazz singer Frank Heibert was honoured for his translation of Tenth of December, a collection of short stories by George Saunders, winner of the British Folio Prize 2014. Heibert translates literature and theatre from English, French, Italian and Portuguese, by authors such as Don De Lillo, Richard Ford, William Faulkner, Boris Vian, Raymond Quenau and Yasmina Reza.
The Helmut M. Braem Prize is awarded by the Freundeskreis Literaturübersetzer (Circle of Friends of Literary Translators) every other year at the annual meeting of German literary translators in Wolfenbüttel. It is worth 10,000 euros.
The jury honoured Heibert’s versatile work as a whole, his literary oeuvre and his lecturing on keen questions of literature and literary translation. Two of his key works as an author are his 1993 book about the pun as a stylistic device, and its translation (examined in seven translations of James Joyce’s Ulysses) and his 2006 novel Kombizangen (Pair of Pliers). For his translation work, he was acclaimed “for his courage to find unusual solutions, his vibrant phrasings and their infectious drive”.
Over the years, Heibert has given a wide range of seminars, lectures and workshops on translation. In 2015/16 he held the August Wilhelm Schlegel guest professorship in the poetics of translation at the Freie Universität Berlin.
Frank Heibert wrote the following about his translation of Tenth of December: “Translating George Saunders, the satirical philanthropist, means giving voice to many heart-warming and heart-breaking losers. Their voices are hyper-realistic, often broken (in their soul and language) and infallibly funny – in that particular way where your laughter sticks in your throat”.