KF 2024 Prize for Outstanding Translation

Khyentse Foundation is pleased to announce the winner of the 2024 Prize for Outstanding Translation. This year’s awardee is Trent Walker, for his book Until Nirvana’s Time: Buddhist Songs from Cambodia (Shambhala Publications, 2022).

Until Nirvana’s Time—the first collection of traditional Khmer Buddhist poetry available in English—presents translations of 45 Khmer dharma songs whose soaring melodies have inspired Cambodian Buddhist communities for generations. Grounded in 15 years of research on oral and written traditions in Cambodia, the book centers on a corpus of poems from the 16th to 20th centuries that are still chanted today in daily prayers or all-night rituals. Many of these texts were transcribed by the translator from cassette tapes or bark-paper manuscripts and appear in print for the first time in this volume. Essays and notes that situate these local compositions within a broader Buddhist context accompany the translations.

KF’s five-member selection committee unanimously approved Professor Natalie Gummer’s nomination of Until Nirvana’s Time for this year’s award. Of her choice, Dr. Gummer writes: “Until Nirvana’s Time is a groundbreaking translation. Not only does it make a fascinating part of Cambodian Buddhist literature widely available for the first time in English, but it also renders the vocal qualities of these songs, in consonance with their composition and use, and offers rich context for their Buddhist background and their ritual recitation. Trent Walker sets a new standard for translations that aim to capture the power of performative texts.”

The book was the focus of a Khyentse Foundation Goodman Lecture in 2023. Trent Walker’s translation is the 10th work to win the award.

About Trent Walker

Trent Walker is assistant professor of Southeast Asian studies and Thai Professor of Theravada Buddhism in the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan. A specialist in Southeast Asian Buddhist music, literature, and manuscripts, he has published widely on Khmer, Lao, Pali, Thai, and Vietnamese Buddhist texts and recitation practices. He has trained in Cambodian Buddhist chant since 2005 and is a regular speaker at temples, retreat centers, and universities.

Initiated in 2011, the Khyentse Foundation Prize for Outstanding Translation aims to encourage and honor excellence in translation works that make the Buddhist heritage accessible to a broader public.