Max by Sarah Cohen-Scali, translated from the French by Penny Hueston, has won an English PEN Translates Award.
Books are selected for PEN Translates awards on the basis of outstanding literary quality, strength and innovation of the publishing project, and contribution to literary diversity in the UK. The UK publisher of Max is thrilled and we’re also thrilled because our very own senior editor Penny Hueston did a brilliant job translating this remarkable book. She is also the translator of works by Marie Darrieussecq and 2014 Nobel Prize winner, Patrick Modiano.
Max is a fascinating and confronting historical fable about the horrors of war inflicted on children. Max is the protoype of the Nazi Lebensborn program, designed to produce perfect specimens of the Aryan race. He begins his story in his mother’s womb. It is 1936 and he is excited about his imminent birth, thrilled to be starting his life as a thoroughly committed child of the Reich. When Max eventually meets Lukas, a young Polish boy who resembles him but who rebels against the Nazi system, cracks starts to appear in Max’s convictions.
Author Sarah Cohen-Scali is an award-winning French writer. She is the author of over 20 books including books for young adults, children and crime novels for adults.
Max first came to Penny’s attention when it won the prestigious French Prix Sorcières in 2013. In putting it forward for publication she wrote: ‘It is like a disturbing, fascinating historical fable that, even though you know the outlines of its documentary basis, compels you to keep reading, not only for the atrocious detail, but also because, bizarrely, you become attached to this kid who is the incarnation of evil but also, of course, helpless and innocent.’ In this article on translation, she spoke of the challenge of ‘maintaining the credibility of a voice—of a boy who is equally a horrifying brat and a pitiful lost soul’. A challenge she overcame in excellent style!
Read more by Penny Hueston on the challenges and rewards of translation in two previous articles: ‘Translating the 2014 Nobel Prize Winner Patrick Modiano’ and ‘Better Than Three Percent—Translating New Voices’.
Local praise for Max
‘A fascinating and disturbing journey...Max is highly original and moving in its depiction of both the bravery and resilience of children, and their ability to engage in acts of evil. Author Sarah Cohen-Scali has written a unique, sensitive and morally complex depiction of two lost and damaged boys.’ Readings
‘A fascinating fictionalisation of a very real piece of World War II history...Provocative and confronting.’ Booktopia
‘Cohen-Scali’s research for the work is impeccable and her storytelling convincing. Max is a timely reminder of the tragedy of war.’ Magpies
‘Compelling for young adult and adult readers alike...A must read.’ New Zealand Book Council