Friday Links: International Translation Day Wrap-up, New October Issues, More

There was even an International Translation Day e-card from

This week’s major holiday—in your life, I’m sure, as in mine—was International Translation Day! PierenePress did a heroic job of twittercasting live from PEN’s translation-day events; I certainly hope they write a few wrap-up thoughts about the discussions on their blog.

Meanwhile, the “top 10” suggestions to come out of a discussion of how to better promote translations (into English), as transcribed by Pierene:

10. Support market to develop readers and booksellers #itd
9. set up a translator’s house – a place for translators and readers to spend time together #itd
8. Get the books on tables in bookshops #itd
7. keep the message upbeat! #itd
6. mentoring translators in publishing houses (internship and mentoring to understand industry) #itd
5. longer translation samples should be funded by cultural organisations #itd
4. Publishers should be throwing books in translation at children #itd
3. Funding for translators #itd
2. one stop shop for high quality lit translated #itd
1. start a translation agency within an literary agency which would promote translators to publishers #itd

Other snippets from Pierene include:

KD: sample translations should be longer, to allow publishers to get into book – 10 pages not enough, 60 would be better #itd

“KD” is Kirsty Dunseath, editor at W&N, who is “v positive about sales of their lit in translation list.” I have to agree with her; 10 pages is very little.

AB: need more support at a local level for lit in translation – libraries, festivals, media attention, permanent venues #itd

AB is Alexandra Buchler, from Literature Across Frontiers. And yes, where are you, libraries?!

The Literary Translators of Canada had an op-ed in the National Post on the big day, and you can see more about the day by looking up all the #itd posts on Twitter.


New issues of African Writing (issue 10)  and Words Without Borders (Beyond Borges: Argentina Now) are out today. This time, I will only very, very quietly lament that African Writing means almost entirely sub-Saharan writing. (Yes, I have heard the argument that Arabs have “their own” literary outlets, but I still see the necessity of pan-African literary dialogue.)

Anyhow, in Words Without Borders, you can find a review of the wonderful Journal of an Ordinary Grief by Mahmoud Darwish, just out in translation. Also, there’s a somewhat disturbing interview with Sayed Kashua over in the Dispatches.


The bookies’ bets are out on who’s getting the Nobel for literature, and Ladbrokes is apparently feeling the poetry in the air, putting poets Tomas Transtromer, Adam Zagajewski, Ko Un, and Adonis at the top of their list. So go ahead and feel the love for one of my favorite poets, Sargon Boulos, who has a new poem in translation (I believe it’s newly in translation) up on Youssef Rakha’s site: Tea with Mouayed al-Rawi in a Turkish café in Berlin.

Never mind the weird “wikinvest” link on immigrants.


Sinan Antoon quotes Boulos in the opening lines of his review of Hope, an interesting-sounding documentary about refugees, and specifically Amal al-Basry. Antoon writes:

Hope is a powerful document/ary about the harrowing traumas refugees have to endure and survivors have to live with. It is also an unforgettable reminder of the resilience and hope (amal, in Arabic) of immigrants.

I watched the film at the 2010 Harlem International Film Festival in New York City this past weekend. Alas, the auditorium had a total of three spectators.


Do you have a coming-of-age story that somehow involves violent jihad (struggle)?

RAYA Agency is now representing Abdullah Thabit’s The Twentieth Terrorist. Thabit was featured in The Washington Post back in 2006, for his novel The Twentieth Terrorist. More recently, an excerpt from the novel appeared in the Beirut39 collection. It’s a novel—not Thabit’s coming-of-age story—but one assumes the WashPost‘s interest stemmed from Thabit’s personal tale of “I could’ve been a 9/11 hijacker.” I found the excerpt in Beirut39 interesting but not one of the highlights of the collection.

Meanwhile, over at Al Ahram Weekly, well—I believe it was Gamal Nkrumah who reviewed Khaled al-Berry’s Life is More Beautiful than Paradise, although I can’t currently load the site to verify or read the review. Al-Berry’s memoir, of course, is not interesting for its sizzle (ooh! former “jihadist” now at the BBC!), but for its mundanities: how a young boy is convinced of a set of ideas and later comes to question them; how he falls in with an organization and falls out again; how he frets that he wasn’t tortured in prison. It’s a story to which anyone can relate, which perhaps is why it hasn’t gotten more attention. A pity.


If you’re in San Francisco this October 3, don’t miss the panel discussion “What Should I Read in Translation?” which features—among others—Arabic-English translator Kareem Abu-Zeid.

If you’re in Boulder, Colo., don’t miss the Arabic Book Club discussion on My days in Mecca by Ahmad Suba’i.

If you’re in Dubai, don’t miss the Read Kutub discussion of Men in the Sun, by Ghassan Kanafani.

If you’re neither in Boulder nor in Dubai (and you probably aren’t, are you?), help start an Arabic book club in your area/library, or help us start one online.


Speaking of libraries, I just found out about the group “We Love Reading,” and their laudable goal: ‘Establishing a Library in Every Neighborhood in the Arab World’


And in other efforts to support children’s educations, the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation is sponsoring this Oct. 28 “Salam Ya Quds,” a concert uniting Arab artists to benefit Palestinian children. More in English or Arabic.