Of Time and Water Longlisted for National Translation Award in the US Skip to content

Of Time and Water Longlisted for National Translation Award in the US

By Larissa Kyzer

Photo: American Literary Translators Association, FB.

Of Time and Water, written by Andri Snær Magnason and translated by Lytton Smith, has been longlisted for the National Translation Award (NTA) in the US. The NTA is awarded for English translations of both prose and poetry and is administered by the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA). Per the press release, it “the only is the only national award for translated fiction, poetry, and literary nonfiction that includes a rigorous examination of both the source text and its relation to the finished English work.”

The NTA has been awarded for 24 years, with separate awards for prose and poetry given for the last eight. The winning translators in each category will each receive a $2,500 cash prize.

Of Time and Water is one of 12 titles to be nominated for this year’s NTA in prose. Other nominees include The Morning Star by Karl Ove Knausgaard and translated from Norwegian by Martin Aitken, Billy Wilder on Assignment: Dispatches from Weimar Berlin and Interwar Vienna by Billy Wilder and translated from German by Shelley Frisch, In Case of Emergency by Mahsa Mohebali and translated from Persian/Farsi by Mariam Rahmani, and Harsh Times by Mario Vargas Llosa translated from Spanish by Adrian Nathan West.

Of Time and Water captured the judges’ attention for its ability to make the enormity of the climate crisis seem both tangible and tackleable. In their nomination, they write:

“While the devastations of our climate crisis are measurable, statistics have failed to adequately motivate change. An acclaimed writer and environmental activist makes its scale and scope tangible by sharing tales of his grandparents, Icelandic citizen scientists whose honeymoon was spent surveying the Vatnajokull glacier, when “glaciers were a symbol of something great and eternal, like oceans, mountains, and clouds.” Now Vatnajokull is dying. Weaving together family history, folklore, and glaciology, the book attempts a ‘mythology of the present’ that might inspire the action required to deflect the most horrific Anthropocene destruction. Ably translated by Lytton Smith, Magnason follows his role models, the Dalai Lama and conservationist John Thorbjarnarson, in communicating perilous urgency with unflagging friendliness.”

Translator Lytton Smith is a professor of English and Creative Writing at SUNY Geneseo in New York, as well as poet. He has translated numerous works from Icelandic, including Children of the Reindeer Woods by Kristín Ómarsdóttir, The Ambassador by Bragi Ólafsson, History. A Mess. by Sigrún Pálsdóttir, Tómas Jónsson, Bestseller by Guðbergur Bergsson, and Jón Gnarr’s three-part autobiography, The Indian, The Pirate, and The Outlaw. In 2019, he received a Translation Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

A former candidate for president and an outspoken environmental activist, Andri Snær Magnason is the author of numerous books, including fiction for children and adults, long-form nonfiction, and poetry. Of Time and Water was shortlisted for the 2021 Nordic Council Literature Prize.

The NTA winners will be announced in a virtual ceremony on October 6.

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