The PEN/Heim Translation Fund was established in the summer of 2003 in response to the dismayingly low number of literary translations currently appearing in English. Its purpose is to promote the publication and reception of translated international literature in English. As of 2015, each grant recipient receives a copy of The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation, generously provided by Open Letter Books.
PEN America has awarded grants to almost 200 winning projects. From 2009, the Fund’s annual contribution for grant awards has been augmented by support from Amazon. The Fund has been uniquely successful in finding publishers for major international works, encouraging younger translators to enter the field, and introducing English-speaking readers to new and exciting voices. All other criteria being equal, preference is given to translators at the beginning of their career, and to works by underrepresented writers working in underrepresented languages.
Over the 16 years of its existence, the Fund has given grants of $2,000–$4,000 to nearly 200 translations from over 35 languages, including Armenian, Basque, Estonian, Farsi, Finland-Swedish, Lithuanian and Mongolian, as well as French, Spanish, German, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic. Among the 108 projects awarded grants in the Fund’s first 13 years of operation (2004–2016), 91 (nearly 70 percent) have thus far been published or are forthcoming from a publisher. Many of those books found their publishers as a result of being awarded a grant by the Fund. In addition to being excerpted and favorably reviewed in a host of magazines including The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, Granta, The Paris Review, Words Without Borders, The Literary Review, Mandorla, and many others, about 20 percent of the published PEN/Heim Translation Fund projects have won or been shortlisted for major literary awards.
The 2021 cycle opens April 1 and closes June 1, 2020.