Prof Darryl Sterk’s translation longlisted for Pen America Literary Award

Prof Darryl Sterk’s English translation of Kevin Chen’s novel Ghost Town《鬼地方》 has been longlisted for a Pen America Literary award – the translated novel award.


The novel is about Keith Chen, the second son of a traditional Taiwanese family of seven children, who runs away from the oppression of his home town to the international city of Berlin in the hope of finding acceptance as a young gay man.


Told in a myriad of voices, both living and dead, and moving through time with deceptive ease, Ghost Town weaves a mesmerising web of family secrets and countryside superstitions, the search for identity and clash of cultures.


“Translating the title 鬼地方 was a fun challenge,” Prof Sterk says, “as the words can mean either a place where ‘birds don't lay eggs and dogs don’t defecate’ or a place that is haunted by ghosts.”


“There is no exact equivalent in English, but there is the related word “ghost town,” which is a word despite the space, which is related to the Chinese because a town is a kind of place, and which is similarly ambiguous: a ghost town is either a depopulated town or a town that is haunted by ghosts.”


He thanks his colleagues in the Department of Translation, his students, and the author Kevin Chen.


Since 1963, the PEN America Literary Awards have honoured many of the most outstanding voices in literature across diverse genres, including fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, and drama. Only 10 books were longlisted for the translated novel award.