Polly Barton wins the 2019 Fitzcarraldo Editions/ Mahler & LeWitt Essay Prize


Polly Barton has been awarded the 2019 Fitzcarraldo Editions/Mahler & LeWitt Studios Essay Prize for Fifty Sounds, an attempt to exhaust her obsession with the country she moved to at the age of 21, before eventually becoming a literary translator. From min-min, the sound of air screaming, to jin-jin, the sound of being touched for the very first time, from hi’sori, the sound of harbouring masochist tendencies, to mote-mote, the sound of becoming a small-town movie star, Fifty Sounds is a personal dictionary of the Japanese language, recounting her life as an outsider in Japan.

Polly Barton is a Japanese literary translator. Her translations include Where the Wild Ladies Are by Aoko Matsuda, There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura, and Spring Garden by Tomoka Shibasaki. Fifty Sounds was published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in April 2021.

The other shortlisted entries were Not Revolving by Rashed Aqrabawi, Black Space in the Basement by Elliot C. Mason, Which As You Know Means Violence by Philippa Snow, We Blew Them Into Shards of Dust by Sean Stoker and Mrs Gargantua: Cuba, the United States and the New Man by JS Tennant. The 2020 Essay Prize was judged by Joanna Biggs, Brian Dillon, Joanna Kavenna, Paul Keegan and Jacques Testard.