Yesterday, PEN officially announced its “Writing in Translation 2013” awards. Among the six titles are two from the Arabic: Writing Revolution: The Voices from Tunis to Damascus (trans. Robin Moger) and Sirees’s The Silence and the Roar, trans. Max Weiss:
In the PEN release, superstar translator Ros Schwartz said: “We received a record number of submissions for this round, and it was a very tough choice. It’s uplifting to see UK publishers embracing international literature, and we’re delighted to support such a diverse selection of exciting books of the very highest quality.”
I haven’t seen Writing Revolution; I will definitely seek it out. Meanwhile, Pushkin Press is launching The Silence and the Roar in early 2013, and Sirees will be in London for two events and as many press interviews as can be squeezed into a short visit. (Insha’allah contributor Nadia Ghanem will interview the author for ArabLit.)
In an interview with translator Max Weiss that ran on Jadaliyya, Sirees said:
It observes the phenomenon of authoritarianism. I diagnosed it and wondered about its origin. I purposefully made fun of the dictator in order to participate in tearing off his halo of veneration and then to topple him. Publishing that novel was an act surrounded with danger but I was not worried because that is my role as a writer. Some of those who read it knew how bold it was. In fact, a diplomat who knew Arabic well asked me whether the men of the regime even read literature in Syria! But I never sent it to Syrian publishing houses, which I was supposed to do first in order to get official permission, sending it straight away instead to Dar al-Adab (in Beirut), which published it without any hesitation.
If you’re in London and want to see Sirees (and get a copy of his book), you can catch him at the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre London, on Tuesday, January 29th and at Waterstones Piccadilly on Wednesday, January 30th.
Also, follow @nihadsirees on Twitter.