Palestinian Literature Honored at Turin Fair

The Turin Fair

While Saudi Arabia is the controversial guest of honor at this year’s Prague Book Fair, at the Turin fair, the focus is on Palestine.

Russia is the 2011 Turin fair’s official “guest of honor.” But, according to ANSA, a growing interest in Arab literature has nudged Palestinian authors onto center stage. Festival organizers note that two acclaimed Palestinian poets will be in Turin for the event: Mourid Barghouti and Samih al-Qasim. After all, Palestinian literature is best-known for its poets. This is in part because of the the broad talents of Mahmoud Darwish, but also because of younger poets such as Najwan Darwish (no relation to Mahmoud) and Tamim Barghouti (Mourid’s son).

But Palesintians write engaging prose, too. Those at the Turin fair include Suad Amiry, whose Nothing to Lose But Your Life is written in a somewhat loose style (in English) but provides a gripping and funny read. American-Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa, author of the English-language Mornings in Jenin, is also in Turin.

Critic Salma Khadra Jayyusi apparently has said that “the great Palestinian novel” is yet to be written. I’m not quite sure what she has in mind (a novel that will, in itself, free Palestine?) but I must disagree.

Five Palestinian novelists you should know:

Jabra Ibrahim Jabra (1919-1994). His In Search of Walid Masoud is available in English, translated by by Adnan Haydar and Roger Allen. Syracuse University Press, 2000. Also, Ghassan Nasr’s translation of Ibrahim Jabra’s The Journals of Sarab Affan, published by Syracuse University Press, is available in English. It was a runner-up for the Banipal translation prize in 2008.

The Ship and Princesses’ Street are also available in translation, although not, disappointingly, A World Without Maps.

Emile Habibi (1922-1996). Habibi is best-known for The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist, by Palestinian Emile Habibi, was translated by Salma Khadra Jayyusi and published by Interlink in 2001.  Habibi’s Saraya, the Ogre’s Daughter was also published in English in 2006 by Ibis Editions.

Ghassan Kanafani (1936-1972). Kanafani’s most celebrated work is Men in the Sun, which was translated by Hilary Kilpatrick and published by Lynne Rienner Publishers in 1998. Kanafani’s “Return to Haifa” has also been turned into a controversial play.

Sahar Khalifeh (1942-  ). Khalifeh’s Door to the Courtyard is perhaps her most acclaimed work. Bab el-Saha, however, has not yet been translated into English. You can find it in German as Das Tor (Unionsverlag, 2004) and French as L’impasse de bab essaha (Flammarion, 1998).

Still, you can find at least these four novels by Khalifeh in English: The Inheritance (trans. by Aida Bamia, AUC Press); Wild Thorns (trans. Trevor Legassick and Elizabeth Fernea, Interlink); The End of Spring (trans. Paula Haydar, Interlink); and The Image, the Icon and the Covenant (trans. by Aida Bamia, Interlink).

Adania Shibli (1974-    ). Shibli is, by a fair piece, the youngest author on this list. She was one of the Beirut39 standouts, and her beautiful novella Touch was longlisted for the 2011 Best Translated Book Award. You can read her short stories “Little Girls of Jenin” and “Out of Time” online.

Also, speaking of Palestinian lit:

Dr. Aya al-Asmar would like to know if there are any young translators interested in translating a section of her novel into English.

From the dust jacket:

استسلمت بنضج امرأة تنحني أمام هيبة الخمسين من العمر، بعدما أوهنت سنوات العمر جسدها وقلّمت أظافر صحتها وحجّمت رغبتها في العراك، انقادت صامتة وسؤال مذهل يربكها : لماذا نحيا عمراً كاملاً رغماً عنا ؟ عمراً لم نطلبه ولم نرسمه، ونظل نحلم بعمر يختلف تماما، بمقاس آخر وألوان أخرى وأنفاس لا تأتي أبدا، ويكتب علينا أن نتخبط بين عمر دخيل يحشر أنفه بين أيامنا وتحت أهدابنا وفي عظامنا، وآخر كالحلم على الرغم من بساطته يستحيل حتى وإن كان يشبهنا ؟

And more about Arabic Lit at the Prague Fair:

Alice Guthrie is blogging about the fair on Transcript magazine.

1 Comment

  1. Jabra’s The Ship is one of my favorite novels. I re-read it every so often forgetting about his other work. So thanks for this reminder of a post!

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