Arabic Translator Barbara Romaine Among 20 to Receive NEA Translation Grants

The US-based National Endowment for the Arts has announced the latest round of literary translation fellowships:

cloudyThe NEA named 20 translators of fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry — working from 12 different languages — to receive a total of $300,000 in grants.

In the news release celebrating the winners, the NEA posited translation as a boon even to the inward-looking US. According to NEA chair Jane Chu: “Given the wide array of ethnicities and traditions in this country, translation helps bring us together and accept the differences among us.”

The NEA said of Romaine’s grant (while neglecting to mention that A Cloudy Day was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction and that Romaine was runner-up for the Banipal Translation Prize for her rendition of Spectres):

To support the translation from the Arabic of A Cloudy Day on the Western Shore, a historical novel by Egyptian writer Mohamed al‐Mansi Qandil. Born in 1946, Qandil practiced medicine in the countryside of the district of Minya before devoting himself entirely to writing. A Cloudy Day on the Western Shore, his third of four novels, challenges common western assumptions about the roles of women in Arab societies. This 567‐page historical novel will be the first to bring English‐speaking readers a literary and historical perspective on post‐colonial Egypt.

Barbara Romaine is a professor and translator of Arabic literature. Her published translations include the novel Blue Lorries by Radwa Ashour (Bloomsbury UK, 2014), and Spectres, a semiautobiographical novel by Ashour (Interlink Books, 2010), which was facilitated by a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 2007. She currently teaches at the Institute for Global Interdisciplinary Studies at Villanova University.

The announcement is timed with the NEA’s release of The Art of Empathy: Celebrating Literature in Translation, edited by Don Ball, in which authors reflect on translation and recommend readings.

The full list of grantees is here.