The June issue of Words Without Borders is now up (Queer II), and it features the writing of Beirut39 laureate Abdallah Taia. His “The Algerian and the Moroccan” was translated from the French by Lydia Beyoud. It opens:
A large notebook of ninety-six pages with a deep-blue cover.
I had lost it.
I found it yesterday while cleaning, forgotten, abandoned for I don’t know how long behind my dresser.
In the middle of this notebook there was, there is, an envelope on the back of which is written this title: “The Algerian and the Moroccan.”
Meanwhile, this week’s Jadaliyya features a poem by Sargon Boulos (trans. Sinan Antoon, who’s been working steadily at translating Boulos), “To the Master of the Banquet.”
At the Poetry Translation Centre, there’s a new poem up by Palestinian poet Fatena Al-Gharra, “I Reveal Myself.” The PTC translations are interesting because they usually come with translation notes. This one begins, “This was an enormously difficult poem to translate – as is often the case with Arabic poetry.”
Submission Calls: Translation
NewPages regularly lists magazines’ calls for submission. A number of smaller publications are explicitly looking for translations. They are: Press 1, Mixed Fruit, Rhino (October 1), Tripwire, Anomalous, and Arroyo Literary Review (May 31).
A Look at Saudi Theatre
Guardian journalist Brian Whitaker has a guest post on his blog from Dr. Mona Hashish, a professor at Saudi’s Dammam University. She writes, in part:
Since there is no theatre institute in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi theatre counts on Saudi amateurs and professionals who have studied theatre abroad. The Saudi theatre does not hire actresses or tackle anti-social or local political issues. Male actors wear masks and wigs to act the female roles. Children, though, are allowed to act with male adults. Most the Saudi plays are either historical or universal in theme.
Neustadt Nominees Include Venus Khoury-Ghata and Tahar Ben Jelloun
The top international you’ve-had-a-great-literary-career prize—after the Nobel—is probably the Oklahoma, US-based Neustadt.
The Neustadt is run in an interesting manner: each judge is allowed one nominee. Then, presumably, the judges all get together and duke it out, lobby for their favorites, and eventually come to rest on a winner.
There are three Arab writers on the nine-person judging panel: Lebanese novelist Rabih Alameddine, Egyptian poet/aphorist Yahia Lababidi, and Palestinian-American poet Nathalie Handal. They have all nominated non-Arabs (you can see all the nominations here).
But Russian poet Ilya Kaminsky nominated Francophone Lebanese poet Venus Khoury-Ghata (seems like a longshot to me) and Philippino novelist Miguel Syjuco chose Francophone Moroccan novelist and poet Tahar Ben Jelloun, who has a new book out in English this year, A Palace in the Old Village.
The only previous Arab Neustadt winner is Francophone Algerian author Assia Djebar.
So I’ll close with a selection from “She Says” by Vénus Khoury-Ghata, trans. Marilyn Hacker and published on Jacket:
The wind in the fig tree quiets down when she speaks
and speaks up when she’s silent
Once upon a time
she argued with an old man
quarreled with dogs
bartered with a knife grinder
The bed and the salt-shaker can attest to it
not the wardrobe
mute guardian of linens
She howls to frighten her own voice and make the water in pond shudder
chases hawks to see their red cries unleash a storm
dumps out a drawer to hear the knives and forks swear at each other
To run up to the road is only good for her shadow
the rains have erased the fields
and the planet turning on itself will bring her back to her point of departure
She knows the echo is no friend of hers
and the mountain hides another, older mountain
which wouldn’t greet a woman who talks to a tree till she’s out of breath