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South Asian Literature: The New ‘SALT’ Project’s Translation Focus

A new project to help bring the “extraordinarily rich” literature of south Asia to English-speaking countries will launch this summer, it has been announced.

The cross-continental South Asian Literature in Translation (Salt) project has been set up by the University of Chicago, in partnership with the American Literary Translators Association, English PEN, Words Without Borders and the British Council. The multi-year project will try to “strengthen each part of the publishing chain across the English-speaking world”, the University of Chicago has said.

Organisers aim to set up mentorships for translators working with south Asian languages, a south Asia-focused literary translation summer school, workshops for publishers across south Asia and the provision of various funds and grants to support publishers and translators.

The Salt project has been developed by British writer and translator Daniel Hahn – a former chair of the Society of Authors and the founder of the Translators Association First Translation prize – and translator and professor Jason Grunebaum from the University of Chicago’s department of south Asian languages and civilisations.

The South Asian Literature in Translation project is intended to address some of the factors Hahn is mentioning by “strengthening each part of the publishing chain” in the English-language markets, “with training for literary translators, support for publisher acquisitions, and funding to pay for translation and for promotion of the translated work.”

Specific manifestations these goals can lead to are:


Mentorships for translators working with South Asian languages

A South-Asia-focused literary translation summer school

The opening of a new fund for translation samples

The opening of a new fund for publisher grants

A series of workshops for publishers across South Asia

A travel grant program open to publishers and translators

Promotional grants and public programming

The program is logically leveraging some of the energy around the 2022 win of the £50,000 International Booker Prize for the Hindi-language Tomb of Sand by Geetanjali Shree and translator Daisy Rockwell, the first book in an Indian language to have won the International Booker.

At its most essential level, the program is devised to “support work written in any of the languages of the region—defined, for  the purposes of the project, to include Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka—and translated into English, for publication anywhere outside that region.

“Translators from South Asian languages into English,” the project’s material says, “will be eligible to apply for support regardless of their citizenship or place of residence.”