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The Susanna Roth Translation Competition - Winner Announcement

5 APRIL 2016 - We are pleased to announce that PADDY PHILLIPS is the winner of The Susanna Roth Translation Competition organised by the Czech Centre London in collaboration with the Literary Section of the Arts and Theatre Institute (IDU), Prague. In its 2nd year, the competition was aimed at young translators up to 40 years of age with permanent residency in the UK who haven’t yet published a complete work of literature. Applicants were required to translate into English an extract from Anna Bolava’s book Do tmy. The jury consisting of translator David Short and Senior Lecturer at University of Bristol Rajendra Chitnis chose Phillips' entry anonymously out of 6 translations.

Jury about the winner:
"All the entries were marked by an impressive grasp of Czech, its grammar and syntax, and the register and lexis of this distinctive, seductive extract, and all entrants should be encouraged to pursue their interest in literary translation. The winning entry stood out, however, because of the translator's apparently easy, intuitive grasp of English. While others sometimes struggled to catch the balance between accuracy and fluidity of style, the winning translation read beautifully, with no obtrusive sense of having been translated, yet in fact more reliably than others capturing both the precise meaning and tone of the original throughout. Any contemporary Czech writer should feel both safe and excited in entrusting their work to the winner."

About Paddy Phillips
Paddy Phillips is 38 and works as a freelance editor, translator, and teacher in Oxford. He studied Japanese at university and then taught EFL for 4 years, first in Tokyo and then in Brno. After that he worked for 9 years as a dictionary editor at Oxford University Press. He has recently completed a full-time MA in Translation with Bristol University, specializing in Czech to English translation.

The Susanna Roth Translation Competition is run by the Czech Centres in a number of European countries and languages. The winners of the national competitions will be invited to visit the Czech Republic in July 2016 and take part in a Czech studies seminar and a translation workshop.

Download the winning translation here:




Why have you decided to participate in this competition?
I entered the competition because I’ve recently finished an MA in Translation and thought it would be a good way to gain more translation experience – I need all the practice I can get!

How did you like to book?
It’s probably not the type of novel I would naturally pick off the shelf – I tend to prefer stories which are a bit more light-hearted. But it’s a powerful, haunting book, and I like the author’s style. The language is very clear and crisp, and above all, vivid. You can see and feel (and smell!) the story as it unfolds, almost like a film.

What was the most difficult about this translation?
I found it very difficult to translate the text in a way that would flow in English as smoothly as in Czech. Although the style of the Czech is relatively straightforward, at first everything I translated seemed to come out sounding terrible. So I had to go over many parts again and again to try and find a natural form of words in English.

Why do you do translations? And why from Czech language?
At university I studied Japanese, but I started learning Czech in 2001 when I went to Brno for the first time, to teach English. I met my wife, Dita, there (she was an English teacher at the same school), and I’ve been trying to improve my Czech ever since. For the last 12 years I’ve been working as an editor in Oxford, but I wanted to find a job where I could use my Czech – and I thought that translating might be a way of doing that. So two years ago I applied for the MA in Translation course with Bristol University, and was lucky enough to be accepted.

What comes to your mind when someone mentions „Czech literature“
I’ve never had the chance to study Czech literature formally, so I don’t know very much about it. But I suppose what I think of is: Komenský; the great writers of the 19th century and the First Republic; the dissident writers of the communist era; and the talented young novelists of the last 25 years or so. And of course, the greatest Czech writer of them all, Jára Cimrman.

What  does winning the competition mean for you?
I hope that it’s a way of saying thank you to all the people who have supported and encouraged me – above all to my wife, my family, and my wife’s family. And also my friends and teachers. I’m especially grateful to my Czech tutor on the MA course, Jana Nahodilová, who has given me so much encouragement over the last two years.
I hope as well that winning the competition will help me to continue working as a translator. For example, at the moment I’m trying to find a publisher for an English-language version of Arnošt Goldflam’s children’s book Tatínek není k zahození. I translated part of it for my MA dissertation and I would love to be able to finish it. It’s a wonderful book, and I think it deserves a much wider audience.

Anna Bolavá´s text features names and descriptions of many medicinal plants.  Are you interested in botany?
No, not particularly. But I think it’s like everything: the more you learn about any subject, the more interesting it becomes. I was amazed to discover a few years ago that the camellia plant (which includes the species that tea is made from) is named after the missionary and botanist Georg Kamel (1661-1706), who was from Brno. I think that’s great, because I’m a big Brnophile – and a big tea drinker!