Born in The Bronx, New York, Jascha Kessler (Ph.D., Litt.D.) has received varied research grants, prizes, and writing fellowships since 1952 when he won a Major Hopwood Award for Poetry (University of Michigan). They include the NEA Fellowship in Writing, two Senior Fulbright Awards to Italy and one to Czechoslovakia. Since 1961, he has been a Professor of English & Modern Literature at UCLA, also teaching poetry, fiction, and playwrighting. In 1979, Mr. Kessler was a Rockefeller Fellow and worked at the Bellagio Study Center, completing his translation (with Amin Banani) of the Persian poet Forugh Farrokhzad: BRIDE OF ACACIAS: THE POETRY OF FORUGH FARROKHZAD (Caravan Books, Delmar, NY: 1983). He won a California Arts Council Fellowship in Fiction Writing for 1993-1994. He reviewed fiction and poetry weekly, theater and events on the air for KUSC-FM (Los Angeles) for 5 years in the 1980s; several dozen of his reviews, both broadcast and published in magazines and papers since the 1960s, have been anthologized in CONTEMPORARY LITERARY CRITICISM (Gale Research) over the decades. His literary essays have appeared widely. He also served as Arts Commissioner for the City of Santa Monica, California, from 1990-1996.
In 2001, his translation of TRAVELING LIGHT from the Finnish won the Finnish Literary Translation Centre Award.
In 1979, he became the first American writer to be honored with the Hungarian PEN Club's Memorial Medal for his various collaborative translation projects in fiction and verse: THE MAGICIAN'S GARDEN: 24 Stories by Geza Csáth (Columbia University Press, NY: 1980), which won the Translation Prize from the Translation Center at Columbia University, and was republished in the Writers From the Other Europe Series, edited by Philip Roth, as OPIUM (Penguin Books: NY, 1983). In 1983, ROSE OF MOTHER-OF-PEARL appeared, as a fairy tale translated from the Serbian with the author, Grozdana Olujic, Illustrated by Kathy Jacobi (Hot Chocolate Books, Coffee House Press, Minneapolis, MN). UNDER GEMINI: THE SELECTED POETRY OF Miklós Radnóti (Ohio University Press: Athens, OH) appeared in 1985. Further, he published a large translation project: THE FACE OF CREATION: 23 Contemporary Hungarian Poets (Coffee House Press, 1988, Minneapolis, MN), He has published a volume of poetry, MEDUSA: The Selected Poetry of Nicolai Kantchev, translated from the Bulgarian with Alexander Shurbanov (Quarterly Review of Literature Press, 1986, Princeton, NJ ).
In 1989, he won the Translation Center's George Soros Foundation Prize for a volume of poems from the Hungarian of Sándor Rákos, CATULLAN GAMES, Introduction by the Translator, Illustration by Richard Diebenkorn (The Marlboro Press, December 1989, Marlboro, VT). His translation of Sophocles' KING OEDIPUS, with an extensive essay as Translator's Preface, was commissioned by The University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia. December, 1999.)
Kessler has published several collections of fiction. AN EGYPTIAN BONDAGE, & Other Stories (Harper & Row, NY: 1967); DEATH COMES FOR THE BEHAVIORIST: 4 Long Stories (Lexis Press, San Francisco, CA: 1983); CLASSICAL ILLUSIONS: 28 Stories (McPherson & Co.: Kingston, NY, 1985); and TRANSMIGRATIONS: 18 Mythologems (Jazz Press: Capitola, CA: 1985).