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PIERRE JORIS receives the 2021 PEN/MANHEIM AWARD FOR TRANSLATION at virtual ceremony on April 8, 2021.

Published Monday April 12 2021

Luxembourg-born & Brooklyn, NY resident PIERRE JORIS receives the 2021 PEN/MANHEIM AWARD FOR TRANSLATION at virtual ceremony on April 8, 2021.

Video (39:44 to 42.26)  



Introduction Speech by Lydia Davis, Mac Arthur Fellow and Man Booker International Prize-winning short story writer, novelist, essayist and translator:

This year we are pleased to present Pierre Joris as the winner of the PEN/Ralph Manheim Award for Translation.

Pierre’s work as a poet, essayist, editor, anthologist and translator in both French and English cannot be confined by national or linguistic boundaries. His literary translation especially confronts imperial histories and encourages voices of cultural and linguistic differences. Pierre has blazed a path for generations of emerging translators to follow.

As a translator, Pierre’s major achievement is his masterful work on Paul Celan. He has also brought into English, the work of many others including Rilke, Picasso, Adonis, Safaa Fathy, Maurice Blanchot, Habib Tengour and Edmond Jabès.

On behalf of PEN American and the PEN Translation Committee, I’m pleased to recognized Pierre Joris for his contributions in the art of translation.


Acceptance Speech by Pierre Joris, poet, essayist, editor, anthologist and translator:

Villmols merci, Thank you, Mercès, Vielen Dank, merci beaucoup, shukran, to PEN American and its Translation Committee. I’m deeply honored and moved by the company this puts me in.

Let me also thank my publisher for their labor, patience and trust. As always, much credit goes to my wife, Nicole Peyrafitte, who has patiently lived with the various intruders in our household.

Deep gratitude also to poet and translator, Paul Celan, who has inspired my work since 1965. And a big abrazo to Jerome Rothenberg, friend and collaborator extraordinaire.

Originally from Luxembourg, I write in my fourth language, American English. And I discovered that the best way of deepening that language is to translate into it and from it. Four hundred plus years ago, the poet and philosopher Giordano Bruno wrote, “All science has its origin in translation”. He should be the official translator’s patron saint.

Finally, 50 years of translating and writing have taught me that there is no absolutely “original” text. That all is translation, because language itself is always a translation.

Thank you.


The PEN/Ralph Manheim Award for Translation is given every three years to a translator whose career has demonstrated a commitment to excellence through the body of their work. Nominations are solicited from PEN America Members and the winner is selected by a sub-committee of the  PEN America Translation Committee

The award was initiated by funds donated by the late Bernard Malamud and by Gay Talese, and has received additional support from the family and friends of Ralph Manheim, the prolific and widely acclaimed English translator. Beginning in 2021, the award will be conferred with a $1,000 cash purse.