Jurji Zaidan’s Historical Novels in Translation & an Award for Samah Selim

I have heard, from @zuberino, that the publicity-shy University of Arkansas (X)* Center for Middle East Studies has announced that the exceptionally talented Samah Selim has won their Arabic Literature Translation award for 2011 for her translation of Jurji Zaidan’s Tree of Pearls.

It’s noted here on the University of Arkansas website; but I can’t find mention of it elsewhere. I also don’t know anything about the jury, selection process, nor when it was announced.

As @zuberino notes, this is a fairly big deal, as “That makes her [Selim] the only person to win both the Banipal and the Arkansas translation awards!”

Jurji Zaidan (1861-1914), it seems, will finally see a spate of translations into English. Zaidan, a Beirut-born author, was one of the leaders of the 19th century “Arab renaissance,” and founder of Cairo’s al-Hilal. He wrote 20-some popular historical novels. And, according to translator and scholar Dr. Issa Boullata, “recently his grandson, Dr. George Zaidan in Bethesda, Maryland, USA, established the Zaidan Foundation in 2009 to have some of his grandfather’s historical novels translated into English and published.”

According to Dr. Boullata, the first of these novels, The Conquest of Andalusia (trans. Roger Allen), has just been published by the Zaidan Foundation.

The Conquest of Andalusia is, according to the press materials, a “fast-paced story, full of twists and turns, [which] unfolds as the Muslim armies in North Africa are poised to cross the Straits of Gibraltar and gain their first European foothold in what came to be called the land of al-Andalus. The Conquest of Andalusia is also the story of the battle for Florinda’s virtue and happiness….”

You can get a copy here. 

Dr. Boullata is also working on a translation of one of Zaidan’s novels, Al-‘Abbasa, Sister of al-Rashid, which will be published soon.

*It’s the King Fahd. I would just feel happier about writing “the Ibn Khaldun” or “the al-Mutanabbi” Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Or the Tahrir Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Maybe we could pass the hat.


  1. From the Foundation website: http://www.northernpenguin.com/zaidan/news.php

    Translations of historical novels by noted translators scholars were initiated in 2009 and have all been completed. They will be published in chronological historical order as follows starting with the first novel in the fall of 2011 with an expected completion date for all the novels by mid-2012.

    1. The Conquest of Andalusia (Fath al-Andalus). Expected Publication date: October 2011

    Translated by Professor Roger Allen of the University of Pennsylvania with an introduction by the Zaidan Foundation . With an Afterword and Study Guide by Roger Allen.

    2. The Battle of Poitiers (or Charles Martel and ‘Abd al- Rahman). Expected Publication date: December 2011

    Translated by Professor William Granara of Harvard University with an introduction by the Zaidan Foundation and a Study Guide by William Granara.

    3. The Caliph’s Sister — Harun al-Rashid and the Fall of the Persians (al-Abbasa Ukht al-Rashid) Expected Publication date: February 2012

    Translated by Professor Issa J. Boullata of Mc Gill University with an introduction by the Zaidan Foundation and a Study Guide

    4. The Caliph’s Heirs — Brothers at War: the Fall of Baghdad (al-Amin wal-Ma’mun). Expected Publication date: February 2012

    Translated by Professor Michael Cooperson of UCLA with an Introduction by the Zaidan Foundation. Afterword and Study Guide by Michael Cooperson

    5. Saladin and the Assassins (Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi). Expected Publication date: April 2012

    Translated by Professor Paul Starkey of Durham University in the UK with an Introduction by the Zaidan Foundation and a Study Guide.

  2. Also I imagine that Paula Haydar and Adnan Haydar who are both translators and academics at UArk would be involved with this prize. It might be an idea to email them to find out what the prize is all about. You are so right about publicity-shy though. When even Google can’t find anything on Selim’s award, you know they’re quiet!

    1. Thanks, Z! I have tried emailing both of them & others at UArk; no luck so far.

  3. Since Dr B has won the award (twice!), perhaps he could make some intros?

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