The literary platform Words Without Borders has awarded Indian publisher Naveen Kishore the 2021 Words Without Borders Ottaway Award in recognition of his dedication to the promotion of international literature. Kishore is the publisher and founder of Kolkata-based press Seagull Books.
Kishore’s award is particularly resonant for us, seeing how immensely Seagull Press has contributed to contemporary African literature. Over the years, they have published writers such as Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Ivan Vladislavić, Abdourrahman A. Waberi, Zakes Mda, Antjie Krog, Alain Mabanckou, Wanjiku wa Ngugi and many more. They recently launched Quilombola!, an imprint edited by renown Cameroonian writer Léonora Miano to “showcase inventive sub-Saharan African and French-speaking Afropean writers.”
Kishore founded Seagull Books in 1982 with the purpose of translating the work of regional Indian dramatists into English. Under Kishore’s direction, the scope of the press’s operation has expanded to included the English translations of over 500 books in languages across the world, including African languages. According to Lithub, “Seagull Books has translated just about more foreign literature than any other major publishing house in the world.”
The Ottaway Award, named in honor of the first chair of Words Without Borders, Jim Ottaway, Jr., “recognizes an individual whose work and activism have supported Words Without Border’s mission of promoting cultural understanding through the publication and promotion of international literature.”
In the press statement, the prize’s organizer cited his tireless hard work as a defining attribute of Kishore’s long career in publishing:
“In his tireless work over four decades as founder of Seagull Books and the Seagull School of Publishing, Naveen Kishore shows us what it means to be a true champion for international literature in translation,” said Words Without Borders Board Chair Samantha Schnee. “We are thrilled to recognize him with the 2021 Ottaway Award.”
The award will be presented at a private ceremony in New York City on September 30. A recording of the ceremony will be available on WWB’s website following the event.
Congratulations to Naveen Kishore!