The twenty-five strong longlist for the 2015 Best Translated Book Award, announced today, includes one title from the Arabic — Amir Tag Elsir’s French Perfume, trans. William Hutchins:
The twenty-five book list includes much-laureled novels such as Man Booker International finalists by Fiston Mwanza Mujila (Tram 83) and Elena Ferrante (The Story of the Lost Child) and Kamel Daoud’s widely reviewed The Meursault Investigation, as well as novels that have yet to receive major English-language acclaim, such as Mirages of the Mind by Mushtaq Ahmed Yousufi, translated from the Urdu, and Tag Elsir’s French Perfume.
The prolific Tag Elsir has won a number of prizes in Arabic — including the Katara Prize and a shortlisting and longlisting for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction — but has not received much attention in English. William Hutchins, meanwhile, recently won the National Transation Award for his rendition of Ibrahim al-Koni’s New Waw and was also co-winner of a Banipal translation prize for his work on Wajdi al-Ahdal’s A Land Without Jasmine.
French Perfume is a “blackly funny, fast-paced story centers on the arrival of an (possibly imaginary) French woman into a small Sudanese town. Anticipation of her arrival wreaks ever-increasing havoc. Although this novel interrogates the ‘North-South’ relationship, it is very different from the seminal work by El Sir’s famous uncle, Tayeb Salih, Season of Migration to the North. Here, we wait breathlessly for the beautiful Northern woman to arrive in the South.”
The full list, which you can find at the 3 Percent website, has books translated from the French (5), Spanish (5), Portuguese (2), Russian, Slovene, Catalan, Norwegian, Hebrew, Indonesian, German, Bulgarian, Italian, Arabic, Urdu, Chinese, and Korean.
An interview with Elsir