The longlists for the 2015 PEN awards were announced yesterday. While there were no translations from the Arabic on either the prose or poetry longlists, a collection by Lebanese poet Venus Khoury-Ghata, translated from the French, made translated poetry’s 10-title longlist:
Where Are the Trees Going?, translated and edited by Marilyn Hacker, also made the Library Journal’s “Editors’ Picks” for BookExpo America 2014.
The collection was published by Northwestern University Press, and interleaves a full translation of Khoury-Ghata’s volume of poetry Où vont les arbres with prose from her La maison aux orties.
THE POET AND novelist Venus Khoury-Ghata was born in northern Lebanon, one of four children of a local policeman who had served as an interpreter under the French mandate and a housewife whom the poet describes as “illiterate in two langages.” Arabic was her own first language; French her language of adoption, with which she made her way in the world, including the literary world of France, where she has lived for thirty years. When she began to write, she wrote in both languages, and often felt, as she puts it, that she was writing in French from left to right on the page and in Arabic from right to left, with the text meeting in the middle in a forbidden, incestuous marriage. While she made the choice of French, in which she has since published fourteen novels and twelve collections of poems, the rhythms and tropes of Arabic, its poetry and its oral traditions, can still be heard in the undulations of her sentences, her poems’ sinuous and knotty lines.
Other translation awards, such as the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation and the eagerly awaited PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grants, don’t announce a longlist. The winners will be announced on May 13 along with all of the winners of the book awards.
Plume Poetry: Three Poems from Where Are the Trees Going?, trans. Hacker
Jacket2: From “She Says,” trans. Hacker