Slovenian Poet Aleš Šteger Wins US Translation Award

Aleš Šteger. Photo: STA

June 2011

The poetic creativity of Aleš Šteger, a representative of a younger generation of Slovenian poets, has earned him a remarkable award. With the translation of his collection of poems, The Book of Things, he was named among the five finalists for translated poetry in the USA and also won the 2011 Best Translation Book Award.

Aleš Šteger's The Book of Things was published in Slovenia in 2006 by the Beletrina publishing house, while its translation by the poet Brian Henry was published in autumn 2010 by BOA Editions (Rochester, New York) as part of the prestigious Lannan Series, in which one translated book is published per year. Prior to that, individual poems were published in many magazines, including Boston Review, Times Literary Supplement and the weekly The New Yorker. This is the first time a Slovenian poet was published in such a prestigious and influential American weekly magazine.

Aleš Šteger was presented the award during the PEN World Voices Festival. According to a poetry committee member, Kevin Prufer, "the poems in Aleš Šteger's The Book of Things focus with nearly comic intensity on an array of everyday objects – an egg, a coat, a toothpick, a stomach. Here, a potato recollects the soil it came from. Or a hand dryer speaks a windy language we can't quite understand. Or a doormat forgives us all. But Šteger's poems go far beyond mere comic description, personification, or metaphor." He also added: "Šteger's The Book of Things is harrowing and hilarious, unnerving and weirdly familiar – and, most of all, ambitious in its attempt to look anew into our all-too-human darkness."

Text by Polona Prešeren, Sinfo July 2011