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Helen Chambers’ Translation of German Classic shortlisted for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize 2011

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Once again, Hugh Rorrison and Helen Chambers have been shortlisted for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, this time for their translation of Theodor Fontane’s Unwiederbringlich, published by Angel Classics in September 2010 under the title No Way Back. (Their translation of Fontane’s Effi Briest was shortlisted in 1996. The novel is one of the core texts in the School’s new Comparative Literature programme which will start in September 2011.)

Helen Chambers is Emeritus Professor of German in the School of Modern Languages at St Andrews University. She is an internationally recognized expert on the work of Theodor Fontane, Germany’s greatest 19th-century novelist. She co-translates his work with her husband Hugh Rorrison.

The winner of this year’s Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, one of the longest established and most prestigious of UK literary translation prizes, is to be announced on 8 June. It is awarded not only for quality of translation (from any living European language) but also with the importance of the original work in mind and the value of its being put into English. The shortlist contains six translations, No Way Back being the only one from German.

This translation has been enthusiastically reviewed in The Independent, TLS, The Spectator, The New Yorker and New Books.

In the Afterword Helen Chambers notes that ‘No Way Back has the strongest undertow of sexuality of any of Fontane’s works’ and she considers the novel in its own literary context as contemporary with Ibsen and Wedekind, as well as placing it in a broader framework which includes Thackeray, Beckett and the tragic-comic theatre of Tennessee Williams und Edward Albee.

Paul Binding in The Spectator comments: ‘Fontane’s novel is a product of the European intelligence at its most acute and ethically attentive. We should be grateful to Angel Classics for restoring him to his rightful place among his peers.’

Theodor Fontane: No Way Back, translated by Hugh Rorrison and Helen Chambers
with an afterword by Helen Chambers