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British Council: YLL 2016 Translation Competition

Relatively few contemporary British authors are translated into Russian with many critically acclaimed authors from diverse backgrounds completely unknown. With this in mind, and as part of the UK-Russia Year of Language and Literature (YLL) 2016, the British Council organised a translation competition for Russian literary translators, with the aim of introducing previously untranslated voices to Russian readers and refresh Russian readers’ knowledge of contemporary British literature.

The competition was also intended to assist Russian literary editors to explore distinctive British writing for acquisition and support UK publishers in their working relationships with Russian publishers. The competition provided a platform for outstanding UK writers to share their work with new readers in the highest quality Russian translation.

The Literary Platform was hired to select a list of twelve titles, in consultation with The British Council, spanning fiction and non-fiction, and representing a diverse range of British writing.

Our brief was to select titles by British writers, recently published by a UK publisher and not yet translated into Russian, ahead of the competition announcement at the London Book Fair 2016.

Our work included:

– Proposing an independent method of selecting a high quality, diverse and representative set of twelve texts to form the basis of the translation competition. We selected a longlist of 24 titles and 12 potential finalists for presentation to the British Council, from which the British Council selected their 12 finalists.

– Selecting extracts primarily from long form literary works that can be appreciated in extracted form. We considered texts that challenge translators through their use of colloquial expression and would introduce the Russian publishing industry and readers to the vibrant and diverse range of British contemporary writing today.

– Managing communications with selected UK publishers and agents on behalf of British Council for the duration of the contract.

– Arranging written, gratis permission from all participating UK rightsholders, authors and publishers and providing the British Council with a full, standard set of supporting digital assets, namely text and image) for each extract.

The twelve titles selected are set in metropolitan, suburban and natural settings and tackle issues of loss, race, identity, family, religion, migration, politics, sexuality, feminism, motherhood and the digital age. See the list of titles selected here.

In November 2016, a delegation of British writers and publishers took part in the 18th Non/fiction bookfair. Stimulating discussions, innovation in British literature, an art installation celebrating the connections between the Russian and English languages and much more were presented at one of Moscow’s biggest literary events.

For more information on the UK-Russia Year of Language and Literature celebration of written and spoken culture between Britain and Russia, visit: