New College of Florida Prof. Amy Reid Receives NEA Fellowship
The National Endowment for the Arts announced today that Amy Baram Reid, professor of French language and literature at New College of Florida, has been recommended for an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship. She is one of 23 recommended fellows nationwide for 2017.
Reid’s $12,500 grant will support the translation from the French of the 2013 novel When the Plums Are Ripe (La Saison des prunes) by francophone Cameroonian novelist Patrice Nganang.
Nganang is a prolific writer and a powerful voice for political engagement in Cameroon and across Francophone Africa. He has received considerable critical attention for his novels, short stories and poetry, as well as for his theoretical and critical essays.
When the Plums Are Ripe is the second volume of a trilogy about the sources of Cameroonian nationalism, focusing on the period from 1940-44 and interweaving history with fiction. It highlights the experiences of Cameroonian civilians and tirailleurs–soldiers with de Gaulle’s Free French Forces—as the French resistance took hold in Africa.
Reid’s translation of the first volume of the trilogy, Mount Pleasant, was published in April 2016 by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux. She is pleased that the NEA grant will allow her to work again with Nganang.
“I am, of course, thrilled to have been selected for the NEA Translation Grant,” she said. “My work as a translator has grown out of my teaching at New College–I want to make Francophone literature accessible to American readers. This grant will allow me to focus full-time on this project next summer.”
Reid described When the Plums Are Ripe as in turn ironic, insightful, and idealistic, reflecting both Nganang’s political engagement and his efforts to bring humanity into focus.
“I have been working with Nganang as a translator for the past 15 years and I am continually amazed both the beauty of his words and, more importantly, by his political engagement,” she said.
She noted that Nganang spent this past summer building a school in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, with a non-profit group he founded, Génération Change. “With his writing, his teaching, and his activist work, he provides an inspiring example of what a public intellectual can accomplish,” Reid said.
In her previous translation of Nganang’s Mount Pleasant, the author brought to life a critical moment in the colonial encounter, as Cameroonian cultural traditions were confronted by waves of European colonization.
In When the Plums Are Ripe, Nganang’s focus shifts to the Second World War, when Cameroon became the rallying point for de Gaulle’s Free French Forces. The novel draws on the experiences of historic figures– General Leclerc, Ruben Um Nyobè, Louis-Marie Pouka— and provides a compelling image of what was at stake when colonial subjects were called on to fight for France’s liberation.
“The novel is a challenging project because of its epic scope and its narrative structure—but that’s also what makes it such a rewarding undertaking,” Reid said.
Reid is highly regarded for her translations of francophone African authors. In addition to Mount Pleasant, she has translated Nganang’s novel Dog Days (University of Virginia Press, 2006), as well as Queen Pokou: Concerto for a Sacrifice (Ayebia Clark, 2009) and Far from My Father (University of Virginia Press, 2014) by the Ivorian author Véronique Tadjo.
“Translating a work of literature takes not only deep knowledge of another language, but also skill, artistry, and dedication,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “I am proud of the NEA’s long commitment to supporting literary translation. This art form plays an important role in providing Americans with a truly unique insight into other cultures as well as access to some of our world’s greatest writers.”
In total, the NEA is recommending $325,000 in grants this round to support the new translation of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry from 13 different languages into English.
Since 1981, the NEA has awarded 433 fellowships to 383 translators, with translations representing 67 languages and 81 countries. For the complete list of FY 2017 NEA Literature Translation Fellows, visit the NEA’s website at arts.gov.
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New College of Florida is a national leader in the arts and sciences and is the State of Florida’s designated honors college for the liberal arts. Consistently ranked among the top public liberal arts colleges in America by U.S. News & World Report, Forbes and The Princeton Review, New College attracts highly motivated, academically talented students from 38 states and 23 foreign countries. A higher proportion of New College students receive Fulbright awards than graduates from virtually all other colleges and universities.