Hillary Hansen – John Hawkes Prize, 2021

“On Translating Rilke’s Elegies” is a fascinating work of hybrid form, mixing lexical investigations of the German of Rilke’s poems with free interpolations of memoir, the novel, and poetry itself. One can feel echoes of the Barthes of A Lover’s Discourse, the Carson of If Not, Winter, the intellectual engagement of Lydia Davis’s essays and stories, and emanations of Rilke himself. The anguish of translation, the ache of the translator when faced with the original, and especially these as they collide with the history of German metaphysics, and the specter of wartime Germany, are the matter of this slippery, mutable, and rangy work. It feels new, refreshing, and unpredictable.