Both of PEN’s 2011 Translation Awards for Arabic Poetry

This Wednesday (while I was still at the sea), PEN announced the winners of their 2011 literary awards. There were two very worthy winners in the two translation categories. One was for a work of poetry and the other for prose, although both could be classed as Arabic poetry.

First, Khaled Mattawa’s Adonis: Selected Poems took the $3000 PEN Award for poetry in translation, “for a book-length translation of poetry into English published in 2010.” Judge Martha Cooley  also selected three runners-up: Jonathan Galassi’s translation of Canti by Giacomo Leopardi, Michael Hofmann’s translation of Angina Days by Gunter Eich and Charles Simic’s translation of Oranges and Snow by Milan Djordjević.

Mattawa really has done an incredible job not just with the translation of Adonis’s poetry into English, but with the arrangement of this book as a sort of story of Adonis’s career, moving from poetic mode to poetic mode, following Adonis’s changing relationship to language, expanding and contracting. I reviewed it in The Kenyon Review this spring.

Yale University Press said, I believe, that they were mailing several copies to the Nobel committee in hopes that this would be Adonis’s year. If Adonis does get the Nobel Prize for Literature this October, I do hope he tips his hat to Mattawa.

The second award for translation was the $3,000 PEN Translation Prize “for a book-length translation of prose into English published in 2010.” This went to Ibrahim Muhawi for his translation of Mahmoud Darwish’s (exceptionally poetic, and beautiful) prose work, Journal of an Ordinary Grief. Judges Jonathan Cohen, Barbara Harshav, and Sara Khalili recognized two runners-up, including Malcolm and Ursula Lyons’ The Arabian Nights: Tales of 1,001 Nights, which I am sorry to say I haven’t yet read.

I reviewed Darwish’s Journal earlier this year for Al Masry Al Youm;  if you haven’t read it yet, get it in concert with his In the Presence of Absence, out from Archipelago (trans. Sinan Antoon) and Hesperus (trans. Mohamed Shaheen). Or, if you don’t like comparing translations, and just want to read one, get the Archipelago version.

Anyhow, very well-deserved recognition for Khaled and Ibrahim. مبروك!

Meanwhile, over on The Millions, they’re asking whether you should care about literary awards.