Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Man Booker International Prize 2019 longlist features two titles translated from Arabic

Man Booker International Prize 13-book longlist announced 
Includes two titles translated from Arabic.

The Man Booker International Prize is awarded annually for a single book of fiction - novel or short-story collection - translated into English and published in the UK or Ireland. Authors and translators are considered to be equally important, with the £50,000 prize being split between them. In addition, each shortlisted author and translator receives £1,000. The judges considered 108 books for the longlist.

Jonathan Wright is longlisted for his translation of Palestinian-Icelandic writer Mazen Maarouf's  collection of short fiction Jokes For The Gunmen, published by the Granta imprint Portebello Books. Wright has enjoyed previous success with the Man Booker International Prize and its predecessor, the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, which he won in 2014  for his translation of Iraqi writer Hassan Blasim's The Iraqi Christ. He was shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker International for his translation of Iraqi writer Ahamed Saadawi's Frankenstein in Baghdad. The translation was also shortlisted for the 2018 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation.

Marilyn Booth is longlisted for the first time, for her translation of Omani author Jokha Alharthi's novel Celestial Bodies published by Sandstone Press.

Highlights of the 2019 longlist:

The 13 books have been translated from nine languages, hailing from 12 countries across three continents 
Olga Tokarczuk, who won the prize in 2018, appears again alongside her other translator into English, Antonia Lloyd-Jones 
Samanta Schweblin and her translator Megan McDowell, previously shortlisted in 2017, are longlisted 
The list includes 8 women - over half of this years longlist 
Longlist dominated by independent publishers: only two are from the larger conglomerates

Award-winning historian, author and broadcaster Bettany Hughes, chair of the  judging panel, says: This was a year when writers plundered the archive, personal and political. That drive is represented in our longlist, but so too are surreal Chinese train journeys, absurdist approaches to war and suicide, and the traumas of spirit and flesh. Were thrilled to share 13 books which enrich our idea of what fiction can do.

The longlist 

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi (Arabic - Oman)
translated by Marilyn Booth 
Sandstone Press 

Love In The New Millennium by Can Xue (Chinese - China)
translated by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen
Yale University Press

The Years by Annie Ernaux (French - France)
translated by Alison L. Strayer 
Fitzcarraldo Editions

At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong (Korean - South Korea)
translated by Sora Kim-Russell 
Scribe, UK

Jokes For The Gunmen by Mazen Maarouf (Arabic - Iceland and Palestine)
translated by Jonathan Wright 
Granta, Portobello Books

Four Soldiers by Hubert Mingarelli (French - France)
translated by Sam Taylor 
Granta, Portobello Books

The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann (German - Germany)
translated by Jen Calleja 
Profile Books, Serpent's Tail

Mouthful Of Birds by Samanta Schweblin (Spanish - Argentina and Italy)
translated by Megan McDowell  

The Faculty Of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg (Swedish - Sweden)
translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner
Quercus, MacLehose Press

Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk (Polish - Poland)
translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones
Fitzcarraldo Editions

The Shape Of The Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Spanish - Colombia)
translated by Anne McLean 
Quercus, MacLehose Press

The Death Of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa (Dutch - The Netherlands)
translated by Sam Garrett
Scribe, UK

The Remainder by Alia Trabucco Zerán (Spanish - Chile and Italy)
translated by Sophie Hughes 
And Other Stories

The longlist was selected by a panel of five judges:  chair, Bettany Hughes; writer, translator and chair of English PEN Maureen Freely; philosopher Professor Angie Hobbs; novelist and satirist Elnathan John, and essayist and novelist Pankaj Mishra.

The shortlist of six books will be announced on 9 April at an event at Somerset House,London, and the winner will be announced on 21 May at a dinner at the Roundhouse in London. 

Man Booker International Prize events:

The shortlisted and winning authors and translators will take part in a number of events, including: 

Southbank Centre Monday 20 May, 7pm

The night before the 2019 prize winner is unveiled, join this years shortlisted authors and translators for an evening of readings in both English and the native languages of the books, and conversation around their books. Plus, a Q&A and book signing.

Waterstones Piccadilly Thursday 23 May, 7pm

Join us for an evening celebrating the winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2019. A byword for the finest fiction in translation, the prize celebrates literature from all over the world.

Following the announcement of the 2019 prize winner on Tuesday 21 May, join this years winning author and translator for an evening of readings in both English and the native language of their book. This will be followed by a discussion about writing the book and experience of winning the prize, an audience Q&A and book signing.

More events will be announced in due course. 

Book synopses and biographies

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi 
Translated by Marilyn Booth from Arabic, published by Sandstone Press

Celestial Bodies is set in the village of al-Awafi in Oman, where we encounter three sisters: Mayya, who marries Abdallah after a heartbreak; Asma, who marries from a sense of duty; and Khawla who rejects all offers while waiting for her beloved, who has emigrated to Canada. These three women and their families witness Oman evolve from a traditional, slave-owning society which is slowly redefining itself after the colonial era, to the crossroads of its complex present. Elegantly structured and taut, it tells of Omans coming-of-age through the prism of one familys losses and loves. The judges said: A richly imagined, engaging and poetic insight into a society in transition and into lives previously obscured.

Jokha Alharthi was born in Oman in July 1978. She is the author of two previous collections of short fiction, a childrens book, and three novels in Arabic. Fluent in English, she completed a PhD in Classical Arabic Poetry in Edinburgh, and teaches at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat. She has been shortlisted for the Sahikh Zayed Award for Young Writers and her short stories have been published in English, German, Italian, Korean, and Serbian. She lives in Oman.

Marilyn Booth was born in Boston, USA in February 1955. She holds the Khalid bin Abdallah Al Saud Chair for the Study of the Contemporary Arab World, Oriental Institute and Magdalen College, Oxford. In addition to her academic publications, she has translated many works of fiction from Arabic, most recently, The Penguins Song and No Road to Paradise, both by Lebanese novelist Hassan Daoud. She lives in Oxford.
Love In The New Millennium by Can Xue 
Translated by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen from Chinese, published by Yale University Press

A group of women inhabits a world of constant surveillance, where informants lurk in the flowerbeds and false reports fly. Conspiracies abound in a community that normalises paranoia and suspicion. Some try to fleewhether to a mysterious gambling bordello or to ancestral homes that can only be reached underground through muddy caves, sewers, and tunnels. Others seek out the refuge of Nest County, where traditional Chinese herbal medicines can reshape or psychologically transport the self. Each life is circumscribed by buried secrets and transcendent delusions. Love In The New Millennium traces love's many guisessatirical, tragic, transient, lasting, nebulous, and fulfillingagainst a kaleidoscopic backdrop drawn from East and West of commerce and industry, fraud and exploitation, sex and romance. The judges said: Jolts the reader from the real to the surreal. A meditative experience that opens up a fever dream of contemporary Chinese writing.

Can Xue was born in Changsha, Hunan, China in May 1953. She is a Chinese avant-garde fiction writer, literary critic, and tailor. Xue began writing in 1983 and published her first short-story in 1985. She has written novels, novellas, and works of literary criticism about the work of Dante, Jorge Luis Borges, and Franz Kafka. Regarded as one of the most experimental writers in the world by some literary scholars and readers, her writing, which consists mostly of short fiction, breaks with the realism of earlier modern Chinese writers. She lives in Buffalo, NY, USA. 

Annelise Finegan Wasmoen was born in Philadelphia, USA, in September 1981. She is Academic Director and Clinical Assistant Professor of the MS in Translation and oversees the Translation and Interpreting open enrolment programme at The Center for Applied Liberal Arts at NYU. Her translations from Chinese into English include Can Xues novel The Last Lover, which received the Best Translated Book Award from Three Percent and was longlisted for the National Translation Award from the American Literary Translators Association. She also has a background in academic and textbook publishing. Annelise is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature at Washington University in St. Louis, where she completed a Graduate Certificate in Translation Studies, and she holds a B.A. in Literature from Yale University. She lives in Buffalo, NY, USA. 
The Years by Annie Ernaux 
Translated by Alison Strayer from French, published by Fitzcarraldo Editions

The Years is a narrative of the period 1941 to 2006 told through the lens of memory, impressions past and present, photos, books, songs, radio, television, advertising, and news headlines. Local dialect, words of the times, slogans, brands and names for ever-proliferating objects are given voice. The authors voice continually dissolves and re-emerges as Ernaux makes the passage of time palpable. Time itself, inexorable, narrates its own course, consigning all other narrators to anonymity. A new kind of autobiography emerges, at once subjective and impersonal, private and collective. The judges said: An elegant portrait of an age; a much needed riposte to the ever-narrowing trajectory of auto-fiction.

Annie Ernaux was born in Seine-Maritime, France, in September 1940. She grew up in Normandy, studied at Rouen University, and later taught in secondary schools. From 1977 to 2000, she was a professor at the Centre National dEnseignement par Correspondance. Her books, in particular A Mans Place and A Womans Story, have become contemporary classics in France. The Years won the Prix Renaudot in France in 2008 and the Premio Strega in Italy in 2016. In 2017, Annie Ernaux was awarded the Marguerite Yourcenar Prize for her lifes work. She lives in Paris, France. 

Alison Strayer was born in Saskatchewan, Canada, in July 1958. A writer and translator, her work has been shortlisted twice for the Governor Generals Award for Literature and for Translation. She has also been shortlisted for the Grand Prix du Livre de Montréal and the Prix Littéraire France-Québec, and longlisted for the Albertine Prize. Her translation of The Years was awarded the 2018 French-American Translation Prize in the non-fiction category. She lives in Paris, France. 
At Dusk by Hwang Sok-yong 
Translated by Sora Kim-Russell from Korean, published by Scribe

Park Minwoo is, by every measure, a success story. Born into poverty in a miserable neighbourhood in Seoul, he has ridden the wave of development in a rapidly modernising society. The successful director of a large architectural firm, when his company is investigated for corruption he is forced to reconsider his role in the transformation of his country. At the same time, he receives an unexpected message from an old friend, Cha Soona, a woman whom he had once loved, and then betrayed. As memories return unbidden, Minwoo recalls a world he thought had been left behind a world he now understands that he has helped to destroy. The judges said: A delicately drawn, vividly peopled and deftly plotted exploration of profound shifts in Korean society.

Hwang Sok-yong was born in Changchun, China in January 1943. In 1993, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for an unauthorised trip to North Korea to promote artistic exchange between the two Koreas. He was released five years later on a special pardon by the new president. He has been shortlisted for the Prix Femina Étranger and was awarded the Émile Guimet Prize for Asian Literature for At Dusk. His novels and short stories are published in North and South Korea, Japan, China, France, Germany, and the United States. He lives in Seoul, South Korea.

Sora Kim-Russell was born in Florida, USA, in March 1976. She is a poet and translator, and teaches at Ewha Women's University. She lives in Seoul.
Jokes for the Gunman by Mazen Maarouf 
Translated by Jonathan Wright from Arabic, published by Granta, Portobello Books

A brilliant collection of fictions in the vein of Roald Dahl, Etgar Keret and Amy Hempel. These are stories of what the world looks like from a child's pure, but sometimes vengeful or muddled, perspective. These are stories of life in a war zone, life peppered by surreal mistakes, tragic accidents and painful encounters. These are stories of fantasist matadors, lost limbs and voyeuristic dwarfs. This is a collection about sex, death and the all-important skill of making life into a joke. These are unexpected stories by a very fresh voice. These stories are unforgettable. The judges said: A beautifully textured and absurdist gaze on human inventiveness and defiance in the midst of wars traumas.

Mazen Maarouf was born in Beirut, Lebanon, in January 1978. He is a Palestinian-Icelandic writer, poet, translator and journalist. He has published three poetry collections and two shortstory collections. He currently lives between Reykjavik and Beirut.

Jonathan Wright was born in Andover, UK, in December 1953. He is a British journalist and literary translator.  He joined Reuters news agency in 1980 as a correspondent, and has been based in the Middle East for most of the last three decades. He has served as Reuters' Cairo bureau chief, and he has lived and worked throughout the region, including in Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Tunisia and the Gulf. From 1998 to 2003, he was based in Washington, DC, covering U.S. foreign policy for Reuters. For two years until the autumn of 2011 Wright was editor of the Arab Media & Society Journal, published by the Kamal Adham Center for Journalism Training and Research at the American University in Cairo. He lives in London.
Four Soldiers by Hubert Mingarelli 
Translated by Sam Taylor from Frenchm published by Granta, Portobello Books

A narrator remembers the harsh winter of 1919, fighting in the Russian Civil War on the Romanian front.  Setting up camp in a forest, he and his three closest friends from the battalion discover a pond which becomes a secret place for the four young men to smoke, rest, wash and talk. Four Soldiers is about those precious months of waiting for spring to come, for their battalion to move on and for the inevitable resumption of war and its horror. It is a short, beautiful novel about friendship and the fragments of happiness that illuminate the darkness. The judges said: An oblique, deceptively simple evocation of friendship and resilience in the Russian Civil War, which builds to a haunting tribute to lives carelessly cast aside. 

Hubert Mingarelli was born in Mont-Saint-Martin in Lorraine, France, in January 1956. He is the author of numerous novels, short-story collections and fiction for young adults. In 2003, Four

Soldiers won the Prix Médicis. His novel A Meal in Winter was also shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. He lives in Grenoble.

Sam Taylor was born in Nottinghamshire, England, in August 1970. He is a translator, novelist and journalist, and began his career as a journalist with The Observer. His translated works include Laurent Binet's award-winning novel HHhH and Leila Slimani's Lullaby. His own novels have been translated into ten languages. He lives in Texas.
The Pine Islands by Marion Poschmann 
Translated by Jen Calleja from German, published by Profile Books, Serpent's Tail

When Gilbert Silvester, a journeyman lecturer on beard fashions in film, awakes one day from a dream that his wife has cheated on him, he flees - immediately, irrationally, inexplicably - for Japan. In Tokyo he discovers the travel writings of the great Japanese poet Basho. Suddenly, from Gilbert's directionless crisis there emerges a purpose: a pilgrimage in the footsteps of the poet to see the moon rise over the pine islands of Matsushima. Falling into step with another pilgrim - a young Japanese student called Yosa, clutching a copy of The Complete Manual of Suicide - Gilbert travels across Basho's disappearing Japan with Yosa, one in search of his perfect ending and the other the new beginning that will give his life meaning. The Pine Islands is a serene, playful, profoundly moving story of the transformations we seek and the ones we find along the way. The judges said, A quirky, unpredictable and darkly comic confrontation with mortality.

Marion Poschmann was born in Essen, Germany, in December 1969. A prize-winning poet and novelist, she has won both of Germany's premier poetry prizes, has been shortlisted for the German Book Prize on three occasions and won the 2013 Wilhelm Raabe Literature Prize. She lives in Berlin.

Jen Calleja was born in Shoreham-by-Sea, UK, in December 1986. She is a writer, musician and literary translator from German. She has translated works by authors including Wim Wenders, Michelle Steinbeck, Kerstin Hensel and Gregor Hens, and her translations have been featured in The New Yorker and The White Review. She was the inaugural Translator in Residence at the British Library and writes a column on literature in translation for the Brixton Review of Books. Her debut poetry collection Serious Justice (2016) is published by Test Centre. She lives in London.
Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin 
Translated by Megan McDowell from Spanish, published by Oneworld

The crunch of a birds wing. Abandoned by the roadside, newlywed brides scream with rage as theyre caught in the headlights of a passing car. A cloud of butterflies, so beautiful it smothers. Unearthly and unexpected, Mouthful of Birds is a collection of stories that burrow their way into the psyche with the feel of a sleepless night. Every shadow and bump in the dark takes on huge implications, leaving the pulse racing; blurring the line between the real and the strange. The judges said, Spritely and uncanny, this is a beautifully imagined and skilfully executed collection of short stories.

Samanta Schweblin was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in March 1978. She is the author of three story collections that have now been translated into 20 languages. The recipient of numerous awards including the prestigious Juan Rulfo Story Prize, her debut novel Fever Dream was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2017. She lives in Berlin.

Megan McDowell was born in Mississippi, USA, in October 1978. She has translated books by many contemporary South American and Spanish authors. Her translations have been published in The New Yorker, Harper's and The Paris Review. She received the 2013 PEN Award for Writing in Translation. She lives in Santiago, Chile.
The Faculty of Dreams by Sara Stridsberg 
Translated by Deborah Bragan-Turner from Swedish, published by Quercus, MacLehose Press

In April 1988, Valerie Solanas - the writer, radical feminist and would-be assassin of Andy Warhol - was discovered dead in her hotel room, in a grimy corner of San Francisco. She was only 52; alone, penniless and surrounded by the typed pages of her last writings. In The Faculty of Dreams, Sara Stridsberg revisits the hotel room where Solanas died, the courtroom where she was tried and convicted of attempting to murder Andy Warhol, the Georgia wastelands where she spent her childhood, where she was repeatedly raped by her father and beaten by her alcoholic grandfather, and the mental hospitals where she was interned. Through imagined conversations and monologues, reminiscences and rantings, Stridsberg reconstructs this most intriguing and enigmatic of women, articulating the thoughts and fears that she struggled to express in life and giving a powerful, heartbreaking voice to the writer of the infamous SCUM Manifesto. The judges said, An acute exploration of the imminent possibility of tragedy in all our lives - performative, exhilarating, searing.

Sara Stridsberg was born in Solna, Sweden, in August 1972. She is a writer and playwright. Her second novel, The Faculty of Dreams, won the Nordic Council Literature Prize, and her novels have four times been shortlisted for Swedens August Prize. The Gravity of Love Ode to My Family, has been sold in 15 languages and was the 2015 Swedish winner of the European Prize for Literature. She lives in Stockholm.

Deborah Bragan-Turner was born in Middlesborough, UK in February 1953. She translates Swedish literature, particularly literary fiction and biographies. She has a degree in Scandinavian languages from the University College London. She lives in Faversham, UK.
Drive Your Plow Over The Bones Of The Dead by Olga Tokarczuk 
Translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones from Polish, published by Fitzcarraldo Editions

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead takes place in a remote village in south-west Poland where Janina Dusezjko, an eccentric woman in her 60s, describes the events surrounding the disappearance of her two dogs. When members of a local hunting club are subsequently found murdered, she becomes involved in the investigation. By no means a conventional crime story, Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead offers thought-provoking ideas on perceptions of madness, social injustice against people who are marginalised, animal rights, the hypocrisy of traditional religion, and belief in predestination.  The judges said, An idiosyncratic and bleakly humorous indictment of humanitys casual corruption of the natural world.

Olga Tokarczuk was born in Julechon, Poland, in January 1962. One of Polands best and most beloved authors, her novel Flights won the 2018 Man Booker International Prize, in Jennifer Crofts translation. In 2015 she received the Brueckepreis and the prestigious annual literary award from Polands Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, as well as Polands highest literary honour, the Nike and the Nike Readers Prize. Tokarczuk also received a Nike in 2009 for Flights. She is the author of nine novels, three short-story collections and has been translated into a dozen languages. She lives in Wroclaw, Poland.  

Antonia Lloyd-Jones was born in Oxford in March 1962. She translates from Polish, and is the 2018 winner of the Transatlantyk Award for the most outstanding promoter of Polish literature abroad. She has translated works by several of Polands leading contemporary novelists and reportage authors, as well as crime fiction, poetry and childrens books. She is a mentor for the Emerging Translators Mentorship Programme, and former co-chair of the UK Translators Association. She lives in London.

The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vásquez 
Translated by Anne McLean from Spanish, published by Quercus, MacLehose Press

Whilst pacing the dark and lonely corridors of a hospital in Bogotá during the premature birth of his twin daughters, Juan Gabriel Vásquez befriends a kindly physician, Doctor Benavides. Through the doctor, Vásquez meets Carlos Carballo. A middle-aged man, Carballo is consumed by a conspiracy theory about the assassination of an up and coming politician and JFK-like figure Jorge Eliécer Gaitán in 1948. He tries to persuade Vásquez to write a novel about the murder, but despite repeated refusals Vásquez is drawn deeper into the conspiracy when Gaitáns vertebrae, stored in a glass jar in a mutual friends house, goes missing. Sparking a turn of events, Varquez opens up a second, even darker conspiracy about the assassination of another politician, Rafael Uribe Uribe, in 1914.   The judges said, A harrowing immersion into the bottomless pit of conspiracy theories. Rooted in Colombian history, it speaks to a central question of our times.

Juan Gabriel Vásquez was born in Bogotá, Colombia, in January 1973. He is the author of four previous novels, The Informers, The Secret History of Costaguana, The Sound of Things Falling and Reputations, as well as the story collection The All Saints' Day Lovers. He is the winner of many prizes including the 2014 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for The Sound of Things Falling (jointly with his translator Anne McLean), the 2013 Gregor von Rezzori Prize and the 2011 Alfaguara Prize. He has translated works into Spanish and his own work has beentranslated into more than 20 languages. He lives in Bogotá. 

Anne McLean was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in November 1962.  She has translated Latin American and Spanish novels, stories, memoirs and other writings by many authors including Hector Abad, Javier Cercas, Julio Cortazar and Enrique Vila-Matas. She has won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize twice, for Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas (2004) and for The Armies by Evelio Rosero (2009). In 2012 she was awarded the Spanish Cross of the Order of Civil Merit. She lives in Toronto.
The Death of Murat Idrissi by Tommy Wieringa 
Translated by Sam Garrett from Dutch,  published by Scribe, UK

Two venturesome women on a journey through the land of their fathers and mothers. A wrong turn. A bad decision. They had no idea, when they arrived in Morocco, that their usual freedoms as young European women would not be available. So, when the spry Saleh presents himself as their guide and saviour, they embrace his offer. He extracts them from a tight space, only to lead them inexorably into an even tighter one: and from this far darker space there is no exit. Their tale of confinement and escape is as old as the landscapes and cultures so vividly depicted in this story of where Europe and Africa come closest to meeting, even if they never quite touch.

Tommy Wieringa was born in the Netherlands in May 1967. He grew up partly in the Netherlands, and partly in the tropics. He began his writing career with travel stories and journalism, and is the author of four other novels. His fiction has been shortlisted for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Oxford/Weidenfeld Prize, and has won Hollands Libris Literature Prize. He lives in the Netherlands.

Sam Garrett was born in Harrisburg, USA, in September 1956. He has translated some 40 novels and works of non-fiction. He has won prizes and appeared on the shortlists of some of the worlds most prestigious literary awards. He is also the only translator to have twice won the British Society of Authors Vondel Prize for DutchEnglish translation. He lives in Amsterdam.
The Remainder vy Alia Trabucco Zerá
Translated by Sophie Hughes from Spanish, published by And Other Stories

Santiago, Chile. The city is covered in ash. Three children of ex-militants are facing a past they can neither remember nor forget. Felipe sees dead bodies on park benches, counting them up in an obsessive quest to square the figures with the official death toll. He is searching for the perfect zero, a life with no remainder. Iquela and Paloma are also searching for a way to live on. When the body of Palomas mother gets lost in transit, the three take a hearse and a handful of pills up the cordillera for a road trip with a difference. Intense, intelligent, and extraordinarily sensitive to the shape and weight of words, this remarkable debut presents a new way to count the cost of generational trauma.  The judges said, A lyrical evocation of Chiles lost generation, trying ever more desperately to escape their parents political shadow.

Alia Trabucco Zerán was born in Santiago, Chile in August 1983. She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship for her MFA in Creative Writing at New York University and holds a PhD in Spanish and Latin American Studies from University College London. The Remainder is her debut novel. It won the Best Unpublished Literary Work awarded by the Chilean Council for the Arts in 2014, and on publication was chosen by El País as one of its top 10 debuts of 2015. She lives in London.

 Sophie Hughes was born in Chertsey, UK, in June 1986. She has translated novels by several contemporary Latin American and Spanish authors, including Best Translated Book Award 2017 finalist Laia Jufresas Umami. Her translations, reviews and essays have been published in The Guardian, The White Review, Times Literary Supplement. She has been the recipient of a British Centre for Literary Translation mentorship and residency, a PEN Heim Literary Translation grant, and in 2018 she was shortlisted for an Arts Foundation 25th Anniversary Fellowship. She lives in Birmingham.

report by Susannah Tarbush, London
based on press release from  

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Leila Aboulela's 'Elsewhere, Home' showcases the work of an exceptional short story writer

Elsewhere, Home
by Leila Aboulela
published by Telegram, an imprint of Saqi Books, London
ISBN: 978-1846592119
eISBN: 978 -1846592126
pbk, 224pp, £8.99
Kindle £5.99  / $7.97

review by Susannah Tarbush, London

In 2000 the Sudanese short-story writer, novelist and playwright Leila Aboulela became the first-ever winner of the newly-inaugurated Caine Prize for African Writing, for her short story The Museum.  In his speech at the award ceremony, the chair of the judges, Nigerian poet and novelist Ben Okri, described the story as moving, gentle, ironic, quietly angry and beautifully written". These qualities are evident throughout the substantial body of short fiction she has produced in the two decades since. 

In 2001 Aboulelas first collection of short stories, Coloured Lights, was published by Scottish publisher Polygon. It was shortlisted for the PEN/Macmillan Silver Pen Award.

Since then, her short stories have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies, and publication of a second collection has been long overdue. The publication by Telegram of such a collection, Elsewhere, Home, is much to be welcomed. Even before publication the book was longlisted in the fiction category of the Peoples Book Prize. 

The collection subsequently won the Saltire Fiction Book of the Year Award, open to authors of Scottish descent or residing in Scotland," or whose writing  deals with "the work or life of a Scot or with a Scottish question, event or situation." 

Aboulela was among the first contemporary authors in the UK to write from a Muslim perspective. She grew up in Sudan and has had much experience of living in both Muslim and non-Muslim societies. She was living in the Scottish oil city of Aberdeen when she wrote Coloured Lights, and then lived in Indonesia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar before returning to Aberdeen where she now lives.

Leila Aboulela pictured by Simon Hollington at the 2005 Edinburgh International Book Festival 

The 13-stories in Elsewhere, Home span Aboulelas writing career. They include six stories from Coloured Lights, among them The Museum. These early stories have stood the test of time, and are more relevant than ever at a time when multiculturalism is being challenged, the extreme right is on the rise in the West, and Muslims feel under increasing pressure. 

One of the more recent stories, Faridas Eyes was first published in 2012 in Banipal issue 44, which focused on 12 Women Writers. Farida is a pupil at a school run by nuns. She realises her eyesight is deteriorating, and her teacher, Sister Carlotta, tells her that she must be fitted with glasses. While Faridas mother is in favour of this, her father is against, both on grounds of cost and because she will look ugly in glasses!

Several stories are linked to Sudan. In Something Old, Something New a Scottish convert to Islam travels to Khartoum to marry a divorced woman he had met in Edinburgh at the Sudanese restaurant at which she worked. The wedding arrangements are interrupted by the theft of his passport and camera, and a family bereavement. But after the low-key marriage ceremony he is suddenly bowled over by the sensual beauty of his wife. He wants to tell her so but the words, any words, wouldnt come. He was stilled, choked by a kind of brightness.

The stories often expose misunderstandings between cultures or generations. In Summer Maze Nadia and her mother Lateefa, Egyptian immigrants to the UK, are on their annual visit to Cairo. There is a gulf in understanding between them. Nadia, who has lost the ability to speak the Arabic she babbled as a baby, is embarrassed by her mothers continuing pronouncing of  the English p as b. Lateefa, on the other hand, has long hoped that her daughter would marry her cousin Khalid, and is devastated to find he is now engaged. It is his fiancée who introduces Nadia to literature by Egyptian authors translated into English, and through reading such books Nadia finds access to her mothers world. 

In The Aromatherapists Husband Elaine is a whimsical free spirit, who practises alternative therapies and consults fortune tellers. Her welder husband Adam is plodding and practical, and unable to keep up with a wife who believes in angels and dreams of working at Mother Theresas orphanage in Calcutta.

A recent story, Pages of Fruit, is addressed in the second person by the female narrator to the woman author she had for years put on a pedestal and with whom she longed to strike up a friendship. Like the narrator, the idolised author is an African from a highly educated family: Your story was a bridge to a world I had left behind after marriage and migration.  The narrator used to send letters to the writer, with no reply. Encountering the author years later in Abu Dhabi, where her husband’s work has taken him, the narrator sees her in a more realistic way and is somehow freed. The story may be met with a wry smile from certain readers who encounter a much-admired writer in real life, say at a literary event or festival. 

The central figure in “Expecting to Give” is a lonely and depressed expectant mother whose husband Saif is working on a platform in the North Sea. She suffers sickness, and cravings, especially for tomatoes, and longs for the return of her husband She had been a social worker back in her own country, but her job applications in her new city of residence have been rejected.  An incident in a kebab shop leads her to a confrontation with a mother pushing a toddler in a pushchair. 

 In the story “Majed” Hamid, "born and bred on the banks of the Blue Nile", is married to Scottish convert, Ruqqiyah. She had walked away from her marriage, her two children in tow, in order to be with him and they have had  a baby, Majed, together. In Hamid’s eyes she is “so good, so strong, because she is a convert. But he, he had been a Muslim all his life and was, it had to be said, relaxed about the whole thing. Wrong, yes it was wrong. But he wasn't going to argue about that. Not with Ruqqiyah”. He had married Ruqqiyah because he  needed a residence visa, while as a new convert she needed a Muslim. Hamid drinks whisky surreptitiously, and Ruqqiyah uncovers his secret alcohol habit in an appalling way.  

Despite her output of short fiction, Leila Aboulela is probably best known as an award-winning novelist. Her debut novel The Translator was published by Polygon in 1999. It was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Womens Fiction, as were the two novels that followed: Minaret (Bloomsbury, 2005) and Lyrics Alley (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2010). Her fourth  novel The Kindness of Enemies was published by W&N in 2015. Her fifth novel Bird Summons is due to be published by W&N on 7 March. 

Elsewhere, Home shows that in addition to being an outstanding novelist, Aboulela is an exceptional short story writer.  The collection is surely destined to widen her readership and reputation yet further. 

Saturday, February 09, 2019

An Evening with Luke Leafgren and Muhsin Al-Ramli at Waterstones Piccadilly

Join prizewinning translator Luke Leafgren and Iraqi novelist Muhsin Al-Ramli at Waterstones, Piccadilly on 14th February for a Banipal Trust event 

An Evening with Luke Leafgren and Muhsin Al-Ramli
Thursday 14th February 18:30 at Waterstones Piccadilly

Free, Registration Only
Book your ticket today

 Waterstones Piccadilly says:

Held in association with the Banipal Trust for Arab Literature, Muhsin Al-Ramli and translator Luke Leafgren, will be joining us to discuss this years winner of the Banipal Prize, The Presidents Gardens.

A contemporary tragedy of epic proportions. No author is better placed than Muhsin Al-Ramli, already a star in the Arabic literary scene, to tell this story. I read it in one sitting.” says Iraqi writer Hassan Blasim, winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for The Iraqi Christ.

Described as One Hundred Years of Solitude meets The Kite Runner in Saddam Husseins Iraq, The Presidents Gardens is a profoundly moving investigation of love, death and injustice. Whilst tragic and deeply rooted in its context, Al-Ramli draws on universal, timeless themes in a novel that addresses the wider tides of history.

The Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize is an annual award of £3,000, made to the translator(s) of a published translation in English of a full-length imaginative and creative Arabic work. The prize seeks to raise the profile of contemporary Arabic literature, as well as honouring the important work of individual translators in bringing the work of established and emerging Arab writers to the attention of the wider world.
Please join us for what promises to be a truly fantastic, celebratory evening of discussion.

Tickets are free, but please register your interest via the Eventbrite link at the bottom of the Waterstones website page on the event.

Thursday, February 07, 2019

Palestinian singer Reem's Kelani's EP 'Why Do I Love Her?' released to critical acclaim

Reem Kelani's EP: Why Do I Love Her?

press release from: 
The Miktab Limited
PO Box 31652
London W11 2YF

Palestinian singer and musician Reem Kelani’s digital EP Why Do I Love Her? saw its commercial release on 1 February 2019. It comprises four tracks:

- "Last Night, O Saud", a love song from Kuwait, from Reem’s formative years there;

- "Going up the Mountain", a traditional Palestinian song from the Galilee, which Reem has already been busy introducing to school and community choirs across the UK;

- “Why Do I Love Her?” The title track of the EP, Reem wrote the lyrics and music of this song to describe her anguished love for Palestine;

- "Mama Don’t Allow", an American blues number Reem used to sing to her mother, rendered in her unique fashion as an Arabic jazz singer, and influenced by her father’s fascination for the American songbook.

The songs were recorded live by Gurjit Dhinsa at the Tabernacle as part of Nour Festival on 12 October 2016: Reem was joined in the concert by  her trusty trio of Bruno Heinen (piano), Ryan Trebilcock (double bass) and Antonio Fusco (drums).The tracks were subsequently  mixed by Steve Lowe and Reem.

The EP can be bought via  here  [ ]

Meanwhile, work continues apace on Reem's next album This Land is Your Land, and on her long-term research on the Egyptian composer Sayyid Darwish (albeit hostage to the political situation in Egypt and to financing).

As Reem writes in her notes to the EP:

"In October 2016, I performed with my wonderful band at the Tabernacle in London for a second time as part of the Nour Festival of Arts, copromoted by Arts Canteen.

"The concert afforded the opportunity for the launch of my second album Live at the Tabernacle (Fuse Records, 2016). We also decided to record the gig for good measure, and I am proud to present this digital EP, comprising four songs from that memorable evening.

"The songs, which have never been released before, range from a Kuwaiti love song that I learnt as a child, to a subversive traditional Palestinian song from the Galilee, a self-penned title track about my anguished love for Palestine, and a blues number that I always sang for my late mother.
In short, these four songs constitute an autobiographical roundtrip between East, West and in between!

"Enjoy this bipolar journey, as much as the band and I enjoyed our travels on the night.
Thank You, Shukran!"

What the critics say:

"Reem Kelani is a powerhouse of a performer, with a voice conveying a rare depth of passion and emotion. This is complemented by her abilities as an arranger that enable her to combine the musical traditions of two cultures almost seamlessly. Although "Why Do I Love Her" comprises a mere four songs, it is the perfect introduction to this great singer and will leave you eagerly awaiting her next release." Richard Marcus, Qantara / Deutsche Welle, 4 February 2019

"Throughout her work, [Reem Kelani] is looking for a musical blend which gives a voice to the Palestinians, the sound of pain and of the Diaspora. In everything she says, the theme of Palestinian agony is expressed in the form of multiple identities, or as Edward Said put it ‘out of place’, and this is what Kelani evokes musically in a global context." [trans.] Jamal Hassan, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Qatar, 28 January 2019

"Reem has focused on the traditional, as she is known to do, but she hasn’t limited herself to Palestinian folklore... Reem also chose a Kuwaiti song made famous by the two most influential singers in the history of the Kuwaiti song."
[trans.] Hazgui Haikel, Ma3azef online music magazine, 27 January 2019

"Reem Kelani’s style is unique – she mimics no-one. Her musical project is based on the traditional, both in form and in presentation; it also encompasses dramatic expression, but without gratuitous vocal gymnastics. She is a Palestinian artist, whose songs celebrate her heritage, whilst simultaneously acknowledging and conversing with other musical cultures." [trans.] Saleh Elghazy, Al-Qabas, Kuwait, 17 January 2019

"Reem Kelani's new EP is a lovely thing which isn’t getting the attention it undoubtedly deserves. Please do yourself a favour and give it a listen." Jamie Renton, EP featured in Jamie’s Mixcloud selection ‘Bollocks to the Bigots - Funky Sounds for Open Minds’, 13 January 2019

Media details

EP Title
Why do I Love Her?

Record Label
Fuse Records

Reem Kelani

EP Booklet Design
Nora Gazzar

Promo Video
Walid Al Wawi

Proper Music Distribution

Commercial Release Date
1 February 2019

For press interview, photographs & further information
Chris Somes-Charlton

Reem Kelani Online

Facebook: Reem Kelani
Twitter: ReemKelani
Instagram: reemkelani1948

The Miktab Limited
PO Box 31652
London W11 2YF

posted by Susannah Tarbush, London

Saturday, January 19, 2019

International Prize for Arabic Fiction holds emerging writers' workshop in Sharjah

group photo from the IPAF Nadwa 2019 

IPAF hosts 10th UAE Nadwa 
Writers’ workshop is held in Sharjah, the World Book Capital for 2019, led by acclaimed Arab writers Iman Humaydan and Muhsin al-Ramli with new support of Department of Culture - Sharjah Government 

Over the  past week a group of eight emerging Arab authors - five women, and three men - has gathered in Sharjah to take part in the 10th International Prize for Arabic Fiction’s annual Nadwa. The workshop, which ran from 8th to 15th January, brought together writers from Iraq, Kuwait, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Syria and the UAE. It was sponsored by the Department of Culture - Sharjah Government and took place at the Marbella Resort.

Salha Obeid (UAE)

Sharjah, which has a growing publishing industry and has become a hub in the UAE for book events and organisations, was recently named World Book Capital for the year 2019 by UNESCO for its ongoing efforts to promote books and literacy.
The International Prize for Arabic Fiction is an annual literary prize for prose fiction in Arabic. It is sponsored by the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) and run with the support, as its mentor, of the Booker Prize Foundation in London.

Iman Humaydan (Lebanon)

This year’s Nadwa was led by two mentors including acclaimed writer of Arabic literature: Iman Humaydan, Lebanese novelist, researcher, and President of PEN Lebanon; and Muhsin Al-Ramli, twice IPAF longlisted Iraqi-Spanish writer, poet and academic. This week the English translation by Luke Leafgren of Al-Ramli’s novel, The President’s Gardens, won the 2018 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation.

Muhsin Al-Ramli (Iraq)

The eight participating writers range in age from 25 to 48 years old and were identified by IPAF as emerging talents, following an application process They are Hasan Akram (Iraq), Yasmin Haj (Palestine), Mamoun Sharaa (Syria), Salha Obeid (UAE), Laila Abdullah (Oman), Wiam Al Madadi (Morocco), Ibrahim Hendal (Kuwait), Eman Al Yousuf (UAE).

Eman Al Yousuf (UAE)

The workshop, which aims to hone their writing skills, involved daily group discussions as well as the opportunity for one-on-one guidance with mentors. The group also attended the 17th Sharjah Arabic Poetry Festival where they met His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.

The annual workshop has nurtured a number of writers who have gone on to be longlisted, shortlisted and also winners of  IPAF. These include Mohammed Hasan Alwan, Mansoura Ez Eldin, Mohammed Rabie, Ahmed Saadawi, and Shahla Ujayli, who is one of this year’s IPAF longlisted authors.

Laila Abdullah (Oman)

Iman Humaydan, novelist and Nadwa mentor, said: “It was an indescribable, deep delight and joy for me to witness the positive and fruitful interaction between this special group of creative talents: new, confident, aspiring writers. I would like to highlight the importance of this wonderful Nadwa, in providing a creative space for emerging writers. I am extremely optimistic about the impact of this important annual project, which offers new writers not only a space to write, but also the chance to form friendships in which culture and creativity are openly shared between participants coming from different Arab countries.” 

Khalid Muslit, co-ordinator and supervisor of the Nadwa from Department of Culture — Sharjah Government, said: “Holding the workshop of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction in Sharjah emirate is a unique experience and opportunity for emerging intellectuals. Sharjah embraces young writers and artists and is internationally recognised as a beacon of culture. It has been chosen as the World Book Capital 2019 by the international jury of UNESCO. The workshop offers young talented writers the chance to refine their skills as they write short stories and novels which enrich literary life and will be a valuable addition to Arabic and non-Arabic bookshops.” 



Iman Humaydan is a Lebanese novelist and researcher, born in 1956. She is the author of four novels, all have been published in English: B as in Beirut (1997), Wild Mulberries (2001), Other Lives (2010) and The Weight of Paradise (2016). Her novels have also been translated into French, German, Italian and Dutch. From 2007 to 2014, she taught Creative Writing as part of the International Writing Program at the University of Iowa, USA, and she has given several workshops in different European universities. Since 2015, she has taught Creative Writing at the University of Paris 8 in France. It is the first time this subject has been taught in the Arabic language at the university. Humaydan is a founding member of Lebanese PEN, currently its president, and a board member of International Pen. She is working on her fifth novel.

Muhsin Al-Ramli is an Iraqi-Spanish writer, poet, academic and translator, born in northern Iraq in 1967. He has lived in Madrid since 1995 and received his doctorate in Literature and Philosophy from Madrid University. He writes in both Arabic and Spanish. Since 1985, he has worked as a cultural journalist for the Arab, Spanish and Latin American press, and has translated many literary works from Arabic into Spanish and vice versa. He has published more than thirty books, ranging from short stories to poetry, plays, translations and novels.

Al-Ramli's novels include: Scattered Crumbs (2000), whose English translation won the 2002 American Translation Award sponsored by the University of Arkansas Press. His novels Fingers of Dates (2009) and The President’s Gardens (2012) reached the IPAF longlist in 2010 and 2013. The English edition of The President’s Gardens translated by Luke Leafgren won the 2016 Pen Translates Award and the 2018 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation. His novel The Wolf of Love and Books (2015) was shortlisted for the 2015 Sheikh Zayed Book Award. His most recent book is Children and Shoes (2018). Most of his works have been translated into other languages. He is the co-founder (in 1997) and co-director of the publishing house and philosophical and cultural review Alwah in Spain, and has run creative writing workshops in Spain, Mexico, Kuwait and the UAE. He currently teaches at Saint Louis University, the American University in Madrid.


Hasan Akram graduated from Al-Qadisiya University, Iraq, with a BA in Biology. For the past few years, he has worked as an editor and trustee of the Iraqi publishing house Dar alRafidain. His most recent literary project was editing and writing the introduction to The Encyclopedia Man, by acclaimed Iraqi writer Hasan Blasim and published by Dar al-Rafidain. He was a participant in a creative writing workshop run by Ahmed Saadawi, winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. Aged 25, he is the youngest author taking part in this year’s Nadwa. Akram was born in Basra, Iraq, in 1993.

Yasmin Haj is a Palestinian writer, editor and translator. She completed her Masters in Comparative Literature at Toronto University. She is a founder of the “Dalala” co-operative for translating literary, critical and academic writing from and into English and Arabic. She has written articles for the “Palestine” supplement of the Lebanese Al-Safir newspaper. She lives in Paris. Yasmin Haj was born in Nazareth in 1988.

Mamoun Sharaa is a Syrian writer, researcher and editor. He graduated from the Agricultural College of Damascus University. From 2001-12, he worked at the Ministry of Culture in Damascus. Since 2013, he has been an editor at the publishing house Dar al-Kutub run by the Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi. He has two published works: Bibliography of the Theatre in the Arabic Language (2010) and Bibliography of the Cinema in the Arabic Language (2012). His book Encyclopedia of Winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature will be published soon. Sharaa was born in Syria in 1970.

Salha Obeid is an Emirati writer. Her first book of short stories, Alzheimers, was published in 2010 and was translated into German the following year. Her next two collections were: Postman of Happiness (2012) and iPad of Life in the Manner of Zorba (2014). Her third book An Implicitly White Lock of Hair (2015) won the 2016 Al Owais Award for Creative Writing. She is a member of the council of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority and the Association of Emirati Women Writers, and founder of the “Society of the Intellectual” project. She was awarded the Young Emiratis Prize (creative writing category) in 2017, for her literary work. Her first novel, Maybe It’s a Joke, was published in 2018.

Laila Abdullah (formerly known as Laila al-Baloushi) is an Omani writer. She has previously published a blog called I Breathe Calmly and had a weekly column in various Omani and Arab newspapers, including the Emirati Al-Ru’ya, the Omani Al-Ru’ya and the London-based AlArab. In 2014 she published two books, Hypothetical Love Letters between Henry Miller and Anais Nin and Worries of the World’s Room, which won the 2015 Muscat Prize for the best collection of articles. In 2016, she published a short story collection entitled My Narrative Beings, which won the Muscat Short Story Prize of that year. Her book A Sofa, a Book and a Cup of Coffee, about reading, was published under her new writing name in 2018. She is also the author of two children’s books and a novel, Pharaoh’s Notebook (2018). Some of her poetry has been translated into several languages, including Polish and Spanish. Abdullah was born in 1982.

Wiam Al Madadi is a Moroccan novelist and short story writer. She is currently studying for her doctorate in translation at the College of Arts and Human Sciences, Abdel Malik Al Saadi University, Tetouan. She has a number of published research papers, translations and articles, as well as literary work ranging from poetry to short stories, novels and children’s books. She has won several prizes, including the 2010 Moroccan Writers’ Union Prize for the Short Story for her 2010 collection Whiteness; the 2012 Dar al-Watan Prize for the Very Short Story for her story ‘Who Stole the Mona Lisa’s Smile?’ and the 2015 Al-Tayeb Salih International Award for Creative Writing (first prize) for her 2015 novel The Gypsy. Al Madadi was born in 1989.

Ibrahim Hendal is a Kuwaiti writer. He has been writing in Kuwaiti newspapers and Arab media since 2010, and participated in the first Cairo Literary Festival in 2015. In 2012, he published a short story collection entitled Borges and Me, and in 2017 his novel Coloured Cities came out. He is currently working on another short story collection. He has founded several reading clubs and cultural forums, including the “Qadimun” forum and the “Diwan” reading club. Hendal was born in 1985.

Eman Al Yousuf is an Emirati writer. She is a chemical engineer and certified coach in graphology. She has published three short story collections and two novels: The Window that Saw (2014) and Guard of the Sun (2015), which won the 2016 Emirates Novel Award. Her third novel The Resurrection of Others will be available soon. She has also published a book of literary interviews with female Emirati writers, Bread and Ink (2015). She has a weekly column in the Emirati newspaper ‘Al-Ru’ya’, called ‘Woman of the Pen’ and a monthly literary column called ‘Under the Ink’ in the Emirates Culture Magazine. Her short story The Teapot and I was made into a play and was the UAE submission at the fifth Gulf Festival for Art and Literature. She wrote the first short feminist Emirati film, Ghafa, directed by Aisha Alzaabi, and she is the first Emirati woman to be chosen for the University of Iowa’s international writing programme in the United States. Al Yousuf was born in 1987.

IPAF 2019 Longlist 
Last week the longlist for the 12th prize was announced and includes 16 novels selected by the judges from 134 entries, all published in Arabic between July 2017 and June 2018. The full 2019 longlist, listed in alphabetical order by author surname, is Women Without Trace by Mohammed Abi Samra, Voyage of the Cranes in the Cities of Agate by Omaima Abdullah Al-Khamis, The Night Mail by Hoda Barakat, Women of the Five Senses by Jalal Bargas, The Commandments by Adel Esmat, Mohammed's Brothers by Maysalun Hadi, Black Foam by Huji Jaber, The Outcast by Inaam Kachachi, May — The Nights of Isis Copia by Waciny Laredj, What Sin Caused her to Die? by Mohammed Al-Maazuz, I Killed My Mother in Order to Live by May Menassa, Western Mediterranean by Mbarek Rabi, Me and Haim by Habib Sayah, Summer with the Enemy by Shahla Ujayli, The Mexican Wife by Iman Yehia and Cold White Sun by Kafa Al-Zou’bi.

The shortlist will be announced on 5 February, and the winner will be revealed on 23 April.

Susannah Tarbush - report based on press release issued on behalf of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) by Four Communications.