At its annual awards ceremony on January 2022, the Modern Language Association presented the MLA-Roth Award for Translation of a Literary Work, awarding Joel Scott, of Berlin, Germany, for his translation of Peter Weiss’s The Aesthetics of Resistance (Vol. II) into English (Duke Univ. Press).
The Committee’s citation for Scott’s translation reads:
Joel Scott’s translation of the second volume is finely tuned to the shifts in register in Weiss’s prose, and Scott follows up every historical reference, including finding English equivalents for medieval Swedish social ranks and translating from German a name glossary of scores of historical personages referred to in the text.
This translation contributes to making one of the towering work of 20th-century German literature available to English-speaking readers for the first time—a major literary event. Published in 1978, this second of three volumes follows the narrator from the front lines of the Spanish Civil War to Paris and on to Stockholm, where he works in a factory, becomes involved with the Communist Party and meets Bertolt Brecht. Weiss’s magnus opus suggests that meaning lies in embracing resistance, even in the face of intense oppression, and that art can be the source of new models of political action and social understanding.
Playwright, novelist, filmmaker, and painter, Peter Weiss (1916–82) was born in Germany into a Jewish family that converted to Christianity. In 1934, after the Nazis came to power, the family was forced into exile; Weiss lived in England, Switzerland and Czechoslovakia before settling in Sweden in 1939 and ultimately taking Swedish citizenship. Although he initially published in Swedish, as of 1950 he wrote in German. His best-known works include the plays Marat/Sade and The Investigation, and the novels The Shadow of the Body of the Coachman and The Conversation of the Three Walkers. After his death, he was awarded West Germany’s most important literary award, the Georg Büchner Prize.
Joel Scott is a poet and translator from Sydney, Australia with a PhD in Comparative Literature and Translation Studies from Macquarie University. He is the author of two poetry chapbooks, Bildverbot and Diary Farm. Currently residing in Berlin, he is now working on the third volume of The Aesthetics of Resistance, slated to appear in 2023.