What’s Left of the Night by Ersi Sotiropoulos Wins 2019 National Translation Award

What's Left of the Night by Ersi Sotiropoulos, translated by Karen Emmerich. Photo: Amazon

NEW YORK – What’s Left of the Night by Ersi Sotiropoulos, translated from the Greek by Karen Emmerich (New Vessel Press) is the winner of the 2019 National Translation Award (NTA) in Prose. The American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) announced the winner on November 8, noting that 2019 marks the twenty-first year for the NTA, and the fifth year to award separate prizes in poetry and prose.

The NTA, which is administered by ALTA, 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. This year’s judges for prose were Bonnie Huie, Charlotte Mandell, and Jeffrey Zuckerman.

As noted in ALTA’s announcement, this year’s winner was awarded at ALTA’s 42nd annual conference, Sight and Sound, held November 7-10 at the Joseph A. Floreano Riverside Convention Center and the Hyatt Regency Rochester in Rochester, NY. As this year’s judges could not attend, the award was presented by former NTA judge Jeremy Tiang. The winner receives a $2,500 prize.

According to ALTA’s blog, the judges had the following to say about What’s Left of the Night:
“C.P. Cavafy has been summed up as ‘a Greek gentleman in a straw hat, standing absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe.’ Ersi Sotiropoulos’s What’s Left of the Night shakes off this cliché with sinuous sentences that describe a man in motion thoroughly enmeshed in the world.

She takes us into three days and nights of Cavafy’s European tour in June 1897, as he stays in Paris with his brother and explores the city—and his still-unnamable passions. Moving seamlessly from description to thought to assessment of the poems he’s working on, the story allows us to live, briefly, in this history; in Karen Emmerich’s translation, the prose becomes as luxurious and welcoming as Cavafy’s own poetry.”

Novelist Edmund White called What’s Left of the Night, “a perfect book,” while Publisher’s Weekly called it, ”Striking… Sotiropoulos’s novel is both a loving tribute to a seminal Greek poet and a contemplative, fascinating reflection on the drive to create art.”

Edmund Keeley, author of Cavafy’s Alexandria and translator, with Philip Sherrard, of C. P. Cavafy: Collected Poems, said, ”This elegant translation by Karen Emmerich of a provocative account of C.P. Cavafy’s visit to Paris, based on published sources and archival work combined with novelist Ersi Sotiropoulos’s rich imagination, illuminates an artist in ways that will please both those already familiar with Cavafy and those discovering this great poet of the past century.”

First published in Greek in 2015 as Ti Menei apo tin Nyxta, the book follows a young Constantine Cavafy, arriving in Paris to meet with his brother for their European trip’s last stop. The incredible attention to detail brings to life the world of 1897 Paris and the young Cavafy on his journey of self-discovery. The book is set in the time before he became one of the 20th century’s greatest poets and beautifully highlights the complicated ways art, life, and erotic desire spark creativity.

The award-winning What’s Left of the Night by Ersi Sotiropoulos, translated by Karen Emmerich, is available in bookstores and online.