CORRECTION: Two to Translate from Ahdaf Soueif

NOTE: I was in error; The Confessions is just now being translated by the fabulous below-mentioned Kareem James Abu Zaid, who says he’s starting on it this week. Also for New Directions.

Over at The Guardian, authors give their favorites of 2012

Aie, I should’ve gotten on that (for Arabic) before recent events. Anyhow! Translations are rare enough on this list — most are English-language books written originally in English, with a few translations from French and Italian — but Ahdaf Soueif always goes a bit further, and recommends books in Arabic that are not available  in translation.

Two novels available only in Arabic. First, The Confessions by Rabee Jaber. Jaber won the 2012 International Prize for Arab Fiction for The Druze of Belgrade, but I was totally gripped by this early, slight novel, possibly the most humane and understated take that I’ve read on the Lebanese civil war.

Jaber is not currently available in English, although two of his books have been picked up by New Directions (thanks, Kareem James Abu Zaid!), and I feel that, once they reach readers, there will be a hunger for more.

Souief also recommends:

And When the Queen Falls Asleep by Huzama Habayeb: a brilliant novel of the Palestinian diaspora. Funny and gritty, and bursting with life and humour.

Habayeb is a Palestinian novelist who was born and raised in Kuwait, where she worked as a journalist until 1990; after that, she settled in Jordan. A chapter of When the Queen Falls Asleep was translated (by John Peate) and published in Banipal 44; you can read it online. I haven’t heard of anyone meaning to translate it.

Habayeb also contributed an essay on why she writes to the issue (trans. John Peate):

On every journey, humanity has fallen away from me. And on every journey too, my spirit has buckled under the burden of loss. Through writing, I have maybe lightened that burden a little, cast afflictions to one side, kept my sorrows at a distance, prevented myself from clinging onto them too long.

More:

On Translating Rabee Jaber, Finally

Excerpt: Rabee Jaber’s ‘The Birds of Holiday Inn’

In Photos: Rabee Jaber’s Druze of Belgrade’ Wins International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Goodreads page for الاعترافات

Goodreads page for قبل أن تنام الملكة

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2 comments

  1. Marcia,
    Though Jaber is not available in English, his بيريتوس: مدينة تحت الأرض is available in French (as Berytus, une ville sous terre), though New Dirctiosn will publish this in English, and his أميركا is available in Italian (as Come fili di setà). As you mentioned New Directions is to publish his work in English, with تقرير مهليس published next year as The Mehlis Report. I hope someone picks up the Habayeb.

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    • Thanks; I had heard he was in French, but not Italian. And I really think that once Mehlis is in English, others will follow. I can’t think why Habayeb hasn’t yet been signed. Maybe after Ahdaf’s mention in The Guardian.

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