Now in their 20th year, the PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants promote the publication and reception of translated world literature into English. Established by a gift from Priscilla and Michael Henry Heim in response to the dismayingly low number of literary translations appearing in English, the fund has supported more than 200 projects.
Richard Prins’ translation from the Swahili of Walenisi by Katama Mkangi
From the judges’ citation: A touchstone of Kenyan literature, Katama Mkangi’s Walenisi begins with a reimagination of events from the dictatorial Kenyatta and Moi regimes. The novel’s protagonist, sentenced to death for “talking too much,” miraculously escapes his fate by piloting the space ship intended as his grave to the utopian planet Walenisi, where a journey of self-discovery begins. Blending parable and science fiction, Mkangi, who was imprisoned for his pro-democracy advocacy, satirizes global capitalism and postcolonial authoritarianism while presenting a speculative vision of an egalitarian future. Richard Prins translates this thrilling ride with humor and verve — a rare chance for English-speakers to read an Africanfuturist work originally written in an indigenous African language.