2019 Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize

Harvill Secker Young Translators Prize logo

Harvill Secker is delighted to announce Anna Leader as the winner of the 2019 Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize. The prize was awarded at the International Translation Day reception at the Free Word Centre on Monday 30th September 2019.

Anna Leader receives £1,000 and a selection of Vintage titles. She will also take part in a National Centre for Writing Emerging Translator Mentorship, presented in association with the Institut français du Royaume-Uni and Beyond Words Festival, and mentored by acclaimed translator and judge of this year’s prize Sarah Ardizzone.

Anna’s winning translation, an excerpt from Real Men by Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, will be available to read on the Granta website shortly.

This year we are also awarding second place to Hayley Wood, and honourable mentions to James Bennett and Samuel Weinberger.

Now in its tenth year, the Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize aims to recognise the achievements of young translators at the start of their careers and to encourage and support the next generation of literary translators. It is an annual prize, which focuses on a different language each year and is open to anyone between the ages of 18 and 34, with no more than one full-length translation published. There is no restriction on country of residence. This year’s chosen language was French and entrants were asked to translate an excerpt from the novel De purs hommes by Senegalese author Mohamed Mbougar Sarr.

On receiving her award, Anna said: It was a pleasure and a thrill to receive a call from London, as I walked to work in New Jersey one morning, announcing that I had won the Harvill Secker Young Translators' Prize. I am grateful to Penguin Random House, the National Centre for Writing, and my future mentor Sarah Ardizzone for this incredible opportunity. This excerpt from Sarr's De purs hommes serves as a reminder that French is a language spoken and written outside of France, just as English is spoken outside of England: facts that I know well, having grown up in Luxembourg to British-American parents. I am excited, too, by the prospect of participating in a mentorship program that will broaden my understanding of what translation can do, and I look forward to a year of creation and collaboration.

The judges – Sarah Ardizzone, Nii Ayikwei Parkes, Gary Perry and Mikaela Pedlow – gave the following statement:

We were hugely impressed with Anna Leader’s winning translation. The musicality, rhythm and flow of her prose brilliantly captures the power in this challenging excerpt from Sarr’s novel, and confidently pulls the reader through its complex and surprising turns. We received many promising entries and, from a range of creative and fluent translations, found it incredibly hard to choose just one to praise. So this year we’re thrilled to recommend Hayley Wood in second place, for her assured and engaging translation, and two well-deserved honourable mentions for Samuel Weinberger and James Bennett.

Sarah Ardizzone, translator-judge and mentor of this year’s winner, commented:

The translation community recognises the acute insights offered by ‘translation slams’, where two pitch-perfect but often markedly different translations of the same text go head-to-head. So imagine that multiplied many times over! Such was the calibre of shortlisted entries for the HSYTP 2019. As a judge, I gazed through a series of glinting ‘translation windows’.  

What do I relish in Anna's translation?  Well, I was impressed by the musicality and rhythm and flow of her prose, by her unexpected layering of words, by her handle on punctuation that feels as subtle and intricate as musical counterpoint, in short by her poise and assurance as a writer. How delightful, then, to discover that she is a poet; and how breathtaking to learn that this is her debut prose translation. 

I am as excited by this matching of two precocious talents – those of Mohamed Mbougar Sarr and Anna Leader – as I am by the prospect of mentoring Anna for the National Writing Centre's Emerging Translators scheme. Already, Anna has proved herself a swift, sensitive and robust collaborator: following our work with Harvill Secker editor Mikaela Pedlow on the final version of Anna's translation, for publication in Granta online. I look forward to helping steer Anna at this early stage in her career; and, reciprocally, I shall enjoy learning plenty from her.

If you have any queries, please contact us at:

Anna Leader was born to American-British parents and raised in Luxembourg; like many Luxembourgers, she has a vivid interest in languages and in translation. Her renditions of poems by Jules Laforgue and Jan Wagner were awarded joint first place in the Stephen Spender Prize for Poetry in Translation in both 2013 and 2015 (under-18 category). Leader has also been commissioned by the Luxembourgish Ministry of Culture to translate the work of poets Florent Toniello and Tom Nisse, who represented Luxembourg at the Transpoésie Festival in Brussels in 2017 and 2018. Leader’s poetry, plays, and novels and have been recognized three times with first prize in Luxembourg's Concours national littéraire (2014, 2015 and 2018, under-25 category). In both her teaching and her writing, Leader is dedicated to practices of inclusion and celebrating difference, with a particular focus on LGBT storytelling, racial justice and climate change consciousness. After graduating from Princeton University in 2018 with a degree in Comparative Literature, she has been working in the United States in the education sector.

Hayley Wood is a medical (and aspiring literary) French to English translator based in Manchester. Originally from West Cumbria, she graduated from the University of Oxford and worked as an editor in academic publishing for several years before taking the plunge into freelance life.

James Bennett is an Irish writer and translator. His poetry, prose and translations have appeared in various journals. He translates from French and Spanish into English, and is currently studying for a master’s in comparative literature at the University of Amsterdam.

Samuel Weinberger recently graduated from the University of Cambridge with a first-class degree in Modern and Medieval Languages. During this time he spent a year working in Paris, where he translated Vénus Khoury-Ghata’s Compassion des pierres poetry cycle, as well as gaining a Cordon Bleu certificate in baguette-baking. He looks forward to his next translation challenge.

About Mohamed Mbougar Sarr

Mohamed Mbougar Sarr

Mohamed Mbougar Sarr, born in 1990, attended the prestigious military school Prytanée Militaire in Saint-Louis, Senegal, before moving to France, where he is currently studying at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS) in Paris. His first novel, Terre ceinte (Présence africaine, 2015) received the Ahmadou Kourouma literary prize as well as the Grand Prix du Roman Métis. In 2018, he became the youngest writer to have been awarded the World Literature Prize, for his second novel Silence du choeur (Présence africaine, 2017), selected by a jury of authors including Ananda Devi, Boualem Sansal, Dany Laferrière and Atiq Rahimi. De purs hommes (Philippe Rey, 2018) is his third novel.

The Judges

Sarah Ardizzone


Sarah Ardizzone is an award-winning translator. She has a special interest in sharp dialogue, multi-ethnic slang and in what Alain Mabanckou calls ‘a world literature in French’. Recently, she has been developing live multilingual performances with writers, illustrators and musicians for the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Co-founder of Translators in Schools, she curates programmes promoting a creative approach to translation, including Translation Nation, The Spectacular Translation Machine and The Big Translate. Sarah is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at King’s College London, and co-chair of English PEN’s Writers in Translation committee. Her translation of Petit pays (Small Country, Hogarth Press), by Burundian-born Franco-Rwandan hip-hop poet Gaël Faye, is a 2019 finalist for the French-American Foundation Translation Prize and the Albertine Prize.

Nii Ayikwei Parkes

Nii Ayikwei Parkes

Nii Ayikwei Parkes is a Ghanaian writer and editor who has won acclaim for his work as a children’s writer, poet, broadcaster and novelist. Winner of multiple international awards including Ghana’s ACRAG award, his novel Tail of the Blue Bird won two major French translation prizes, Prix Baudelaire and Prix Laure Bataillon, in 2014. Following roles at the University of Southampton, California State University and the University of Aberystwyth, Nii Ayikwei was founding director of the Aidoo Centre for Creative Writing in Accra, before taking his current role as Producer of Literature and Talks at Brighton Festival. He has been the senior editor at flipped eye publishing since 2001, publishing a leading crop of poets from the UK, including Nick Makoha, Malika Booker, Niall O'Sullivan, Jacob Sam-La Rose and Warsan Shire. 

Gary Michael Perry

Gary Michael Perry

Gary Michael Perry is Head of the Fiction Department at Foyles’ flagship store on Charing Cross Road, where he works to promote fiction in translation. He also advises the editorial board of New Books in German at the Goethe-Institut London.

Mikaela Pedlow


Mikaela Pedlow is Assistant Editor at Harvill Secker, where she works with many international authors including Ismail Kadare, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, Per Petterson and Enrique Vila-Matas. Mikaela is a two-time Penguin Random House WriteNow mentor and the coordinator of the Harvill Secker Young Translators’ Prize.


Previous winners of the Young Translators’ Prize:

2018After Half-Time by Shamik Ghosh, translated from the Bengali by Subha Prasad Sanyal

2017Seven People with the Same Name and their Discrete Moments by Han Yujoo, translated from the Korean by Erica Chung

2016Swimming Underwater by Merethe Lindstrøm, translated from the Norwegian by Marta Eidsvåg

2015The Tattoo by Maciej Miłkowski, translated from the Polish by Tul’si Bhambry

2014The Family Friend by Julia Franck, translated from the German by Eleanor Collins

2013Success by Adriana Lisboa, translated from the Portuguese by Lucy Greaves

2012The Wig by Han Don, translated from the Chinese by Philip Hand

2011Gothic Night by Mansoura Ez Eldin, translated from the Arabic by Wiam El-Tamami

2010: The Axe Falls by Matías Néspolo, translated from the Spanish by Beth Fowler

Harvill Secker is proud to work with:

Institut Francais and Beyond Words logos

The Emerging Literary Translator Mentorships are run by the National Centre for Writing (NCW).  NCW is based at Dragon Hall in Norwich, England’s first UNESCO City of Literature. The National Centre for Writing promotes great literature, inspires communities through the power of writing, reading and literary translation, nurtures literary talent and hosts world-class events.

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more