The Grand Prix SGDL/ Ministry of Culture for the 2022 translation work was awarded to Robert Amutio, translator from Spanish to French.
Born in Algeria, Spanish parents in political exile, Robert Amutio learned French at school, the only place in his childhood where he heard this language spoken. He left Algeria for the south of France two years after independence and continued his secondary and higher education in Arles, then in Aix-en-Provence. He taught French in several metropolitan institutions and then in Ethiopia, Algeria, Morocco and Mexico.
« It was on my return from Mexico, where I reconnected with my mother tongue, that I translated a small work, solicited by friends. I liked the exercise. A certain ingenuity prompted me to propose to publishers a writer I had discovered », says Robert Amutio.
Ingenuity, obstinacy and patience: it took more than three years before a publisher, Christian Bourgois, accepted his proposal to have the works of Roberto Bolaño, a Chilean writer then virtually unknown in Europe, translated.
Robert Amutio subsequently translated into French the work of Chilean writers Roberto Bolaño and Diego Zúñiga. He is also responsible for being able to read today in French the works of the Salvadorian Horacio Castellanos Moya, the Mexicans Daniel Sada and Juan Manuel Servín, the Colombian Antonio Ungar and the Spanish exile in Mexico Pere Calders (Catalan), published by Éditions Les Allusifs; but also by the Spanish Milena Busquets, the Argentinian Ricardo Piglia, the Bolivian Edmundo Paz Soldán, the Venezuelans Rodrigo Blanco Calderón and Alberto Barrera Tyszka, available at Éditions Gallimard; Colombian Antonio Ungar and Uruguayan Mario Levrero (Éditions Notabilia); Guatemalan Augusto Monterroso (Éditions André Dimanche); Peruvian Ricardo Sumalavia (Éditions Cataplum); Argentine Jorge Barón Biza (Éditions Attila) and Daniel Guebel (Éditions L'arbre vengeur); finally, by Chilean Benjamin Labatut (Éditions du Seuil). Robert Amutio has also directed, at the Editions de l'Arbre vengeur, the collection «The Invisible Forest», in which were published in France the Ecuadorian José de la Cuadra, the Argentinian Lazaro Covadlo, Rafael Pinedo and Diego Vecchio, the Mexican Alain-Paul Mallard, Peruvian Carlos Calderon Fajardo and Uruguayan Mario Levrero.
Represented by Mr. Nicolas Georges, Director in charge of Books and Reading at the Ministry of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak, Minister of Culture said:
« It is moving for me to reward women and men like you, of good will, writers of the shadows, devoted people, who spend their life as writers in the service of other writers, who dedicate their work to another work! What a fine and difficult job you are doing, dear Robert Amutio! A profession of patience, precision, responsibility, sensitivity, humility, a magnificent craft, which Jacques Derrida described as “both impossible, but necessary”. Impossible, because a work always translates into a new work. Necessary, because a work aspires to be liberated in other languages, to travel to readers around the world, to spread in cultures other than that of its original language. Thus, a translator is by nature a diversity author, an amplification author, a split author. In short, an author with super powers, who enriches, strengthens, diffuses our French language and culture. [...]
Thank you, Dear Robert Amutio, for your passionate work and your adjusted pen which, for more than 20 years, takes us tirelessly on the melancholic, enigmatic, often violent, magical, apocalyptic paths of Latin America. [… ] You have offered the French public the opportunity to discover this rich, grave, profound and varied literature with its turbulent and often tragic history. »
Mr. Christophe Hardy, President of the Société des Gens de Lettres, praised the work of Robert Amutio and all literary translators:
« A translator is a personal culture, a taste formed by the love of texts and the love of languages. A translator is an artist who can identify the value of another artist and want to transmit it. A translator is a pen, a style, a imprint. […] Thank you and congratulations to you, dear Robert Amutio. Continue to defend and illustrate the beautiful profession of author-translator and to feast on your original works.”
Evelyne Chatelain, President of the Jury, said:
« I congratulate Robert Amutio for his immense work of translation and admire the talent and efforts that have been required to overcome not only Bolano, but many other South American authors..”
The Grand Prix SGDL/ Ministry of Culture for translation work was created in 2019 to reward each year a translator emeritus.
Endowed with €15,000, it embodies the common desire of the Ministry of Culture and the Society of Literary People to promote the profession of literary translator, which helps to promote the circulation of works and ideas around the world, to strengthen ties and dialogue between peoples and cultures, to enrich the diversity of the editorial offer available in French.
It is awarded every year by an independent jury, placed with the SGDL, composed of translators, writers, journalists and literary critics and awarded by the Minister for Culture and the President of the SGDL.