Ferial Ghazoul and John Verlenden Win the 2013 University of Arkansas Arabic Translation Award

Ferial Ghazoul and John Verlenden — both at the American University in Cairo — have won this year’s University of Arkansas Arabic Translation Award for their collection Chronicles of Majnun Layla and Selected Poems of Qassim Haddad, by Bahrain’s great living poet:

Qassim Haddad

Past winners of the Arkansas prize have included Samah Selim’s translation of Jurji Zaydan’s Tree of Pearls, Queen of Egypt (2012); Allen Salter, Rafah Abu Ennab, and Zahra Jhishi’s translation of Mahmoud Saeed’s The World Through the Eyes of Angels (2011); and Osman Nusairi’s translation of Reem Bassiouney’s The Pistachio Seller. 

As with these previous winners, Ghazoul and Verlenden’s manuscript will be published by Syracuse University Press. They also split a prize of $10,000 with the author.

This follows the $100,000 translation grant the pair received from the National Endowment for the Humanities to “create a comprehensive edition of Haddad’s work in English.”

This collection includes Haddad’s reworking of the Majnun Layla story, a cycle of poems inspired by the tragic story of a seventh-century Arabian poet. Excerpts have appeared in The Word, both of the Majnun Layla cycle and of Haddad’s selected poems.

From The Word:

This English translation strives to add a new voice to a classic of world poetry, and to a traveling work of literature that has found home in many settings and various genres. It offers another inflection on the legend; in Haddad’s hymn to Love, the legend is refashioned where love becomes the prime mover of the world. In a Dantesque glorification of the supreme power of love, Haddad undermines both the established and the conventional, poetically and thematically. He uses a variety of poetic modes—narrative, lyrical, aphoristic, and philosophically speculative. The translation is faithful to Haddad’s exquisite text and to the cadences of the original, reproducing the meandering phrases and the dialogical structure—all rendered poetically in English, in the conviction that poetics of both source and target language have to be articulated in a translation.

Nizami miniature: Layla and Majnun meet for the last time before their deaths.
Nizami miniature: Layla and Majnun meet for the last time before their deaths.

Ghazoul and Verlenden have been translating as a team for nearly two decades: Their first project, Muhammad Afifi Matar’s Quartet of Joy, also won the Arkansas award, in 1997. They also translated Edwar Kharrat’s Rama and the Dragon (2002) and a number of poems.

Excerpts from The Word:

Majnun Layla

Selected Poems

More on Haddad:

Professors Receive $100,000 Grant to Translate Qassim Haddad

Frangieh’s essay on Haddad, “Qassim Haddad: Resignation and Revolution”

Qassim Haddad on himself

An Al Ahram profile of Haddad, “The penman of Manama,” by Rania Khallaf

Selected poems:

Five poems by Qassim Haddad on Jehat, in Arabic and English, translated by Mohammed A. Alkhozai

“Stone” and “Words from a Young Night” on Blackbird