Esperanto Language Blog

William Auld Posted by on Apr 30, 2009 in Esperanto Language

Scottish-born William Auld ranks among the best Esperanto authors of recent times – if not of all time! His long literary career included the editorship of several Esperanto magazines, and for a few years in the late 70s he was the Vice President of the World Esperanto Association. He compiled anthologies, wrote many poetry books, translated plenty of English-language literature, wrote essays on Esperanto, and even wrote four textbooks for teaching and learning Esperanto! His crowning glory was the epic poem “La Infana Raso” (the infant race), which we visited a long while ago in this blog when we examined Esperanto poetry.

Auld is probably one of my favorite poets, in all the languages I know. But, don’t take my word alone that he’s excellent. From 1999 until 2006 (the year of his death), he was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. He never won, unfortunately…Imagine the recognition Esperanto would have received if he had earned one! However, the mere fact that he was nominated is a testament to his immense literary skill and poetic expertise. Search him on the Internet to find some of his poems!

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  1. Garbhan MacAoidh:

    When William Auld died, the newspaper “The Scotsman” published an obituary in which the writer lamented the fact that Auld’s poetry was not available in English or in Scots, “a language that he loved”. In fact, translations of the entire text of his magnum opus “La infana raso” are available in English (“The Infant Race”), Scots (“A Bairnlie Ilk”) and Gaelic (“An Cinneadh Leanabail”). These can be read on the webpages of Akademio Literatura de Esperanto ( They are also included in the book “William Auld – Master Poet of Esperanto” by Girvan McKay,which can be purchased online from under the heading “Poetry”.

  2. A.Z. Foreman:

    The widespread notion that Auld was nominated for the Nobel Prize in literature has always seemed odd to me. Nominations are kept secret until 50 years after they are made, and nominators are encouraged not to blab. But sometimes, admittedly, blabbing may happen. The earliest source seems to have been the BBC and several news outlets in 1998. However, a great many other sources (including his obituary) seem to claim that he was first nominated in 1999. Anyway, rumors about recent nominations frequently turn out to be wrong. So it wouldn’t surprise me if the whole notion turns out to be the result of someone’s fudging.

    However, assuming he was indeed nominated for the Nobel Prize multiple times, it was simply impossible for him to actually win it. His work was completely unavailable in translation, and not one of the members of the Swedish Academy could read Esperanto (Nobel rules require that the voters read the nominees’ work themselves.) Authors in minor languages seldom get recognized by the committee until they are well translated.

    Why Auld has never been translated is a puzzle to me. But I suspect it has something to do with the stubborn condescension I often get from Esperantists when I discuss translating literature *from* Esperanto and not just *into* it. (I.e. “it’s a universal language so people should just learn it to read the original”, “esperanto is too rich to be rendered in any ‘ethnic’ language” etc.)

    It’s ironic that the literature of a would-be universal language has been stymied by the refusal of that language’s proponents to make it more accessible. Kind of like making it illegal to take driving lessons unless you have a driver’s license.

    Oh and here’s my translation of one of Auld’s poems: