Alex Zucker

Translation, Editing, Communications

Photo: Beowulf Sheehan






Alex Zucker is an award-winning translator of Czech. He also works in editing and communications. From 2014 to 2016, he served as cochair of the Translation Committee at PEN America.

In November, Alex’s newest translation, the Petra Hůlová novel Three Plastic Rooms, will be published by Jantar. In June, it was named one of the winners of the 2017 PEN Translates awards from English PEN.

In May, Alex’s translation of Angel Station, a novel by Jáchym Topol, was published by Dalkey Archive Press. Kirkus wrote, “Zucker explains in a rich translator’s note that this brutal little novel by inventive wordsmith Topol (The Devil’s Workshop, 2013, etc.), published in Czech in 1995, is the third entry in a prose triptych depicting Prague as the city evolved beyond the end of communism. It accomplishes its goal, as does its 2000 no-budget film adaptation (Anděl Exit). However, with its harsh colloquial language, colorful descriptions, and heavy focus on drugs, the novel recalls nothing so much as Irvine Welsh’s cult classic, Trainspotting (1996).”

Alex is currently translating the play Arrears, by Marek Hejduk, as well as notes by Vincenc Kramář for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Leonard A. Lauder Research Center for Modern Art, and editing for the Czech Film Center.

In 2016, Alex published three translations: Midway Upon the Journey of Our Life by Josef Jedlička (Karolinum Press); Love Letter in Cuneiform by Tomáš Zmeškal (Margellos World Republic of Letters at Yale University Press); and The Attempt by Magdaléna Platzová (Bellevue Literary Press).

Alex’s translation of Heda Margolius Kovály’s Innocence; or, Murder on Steep Street was named one of NPR’s Best Books of 2015. Read the opening of Chapter 1 here. Listen to Maureen Corrigan’s review for NPR here. Read the Wall Street Journal’s review here.

Reconstructing Atrocity Prevention, coedited by Alex with Sheri Rosenberg and Tibi Galis, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2015.

Listen to Alex talk about the business of literary translation on the Three Percent podcast, with Chad Post and Tom Roberge, here. Read the transcript here.

Read other translations by Alex in Contemporary Czech Prose: Not Necessarily About Politics, the November 2014 issue of Words Without Borders, for which he also served as guest editor.

His translation of Jáchym Topol’s The Devil’s Workshop (2013, Portobello Books) was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. In addition it won an English PEN Award for Writing in Translation, the Typographical Translation Award, and was named to the Fiction Longlist for the Best Translated Book Award.

Alex’s essay “O Pioneer! Michael Henry Heim and the Politics of Czech Literature in English Translation” appeared in The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim and a Life in Translation, published in 2014 by Open Letter Books.

Also in 2014, Alex was commissioned to create new subtitles for the digital restoration of Closely Watched Trains, the 1966 Oscar-winning film by Jiří Menzel, based on the Bohumil Hrabal novella.

He lives and works in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.

As of 1/​1/​17, Alex’s rates for literary translation range from $0.15 to $0.25 per word, depending on difficulty, time frame, and other factors (including whether or not royalties are paid). His standard editing rate begins at $50 per hour, again depending on difficulty, time frame, and other factors.

Reviews, Interviews, Writings

Selected Works

Fiction
“. . . a book sure to dazzle and please a great many readers.” – Wall Street Journal
“. . . should help to cement Jáchym Topol’s reputation as one of the most original and compelling European voices at work today.”
Times Literary Supplement
“. . . a gleeful skewering of the Czech national character and a character-rich, dialogue-sassy send-up colored by a lingering Communist legacy.”
Publishers Weekly
“. . . an acutely observed account — compelling despite its grimness — of the lives of its semi-nomadic subjects.”
Times Literary Supplement