Celebrated Translator Robin Moger’s Reads for 2016 and 2017

Yesterday, ArabLit ran an “Arab authors’ and translators’ favorites” list for 2016. There are always authors who send theirs in late; translator Robin Moger’s came just after the post went live:

Moger (@robinmoger) is a translator and the force behind qisasukhra.wordpress.com, which is certainly the best independent, one-person website dedicated to showcasing Arabic literature in translation.

By Robin Moger

Nael Eltoukhy
Nael Eltoukhy

Nael ElToukhy, الخروج من البلاعة:
Nael’s third novel, hopefully to be published next year so look out for it. Following the progress of a young mother through revolution and tragedy personal and political this enormous, digressive, shaggy-canine, surreal novel has some of the signature humour and shambolic expansiveness of Nael’s Women of Karantina*, but carries devastating emotional power and focus, the mock-seriousness fringed with melancholy and madness. It is excellent.

Mohammed Abdel Nabi, في غرفة العنكبوت :
I love Abdel Nabi’s writing, his short stories in particular, and I also loved this novel for the deliberately uninflected tone of the prose, its quietly radical narrative and unsettling confessional tone. It is the protagonist’s account of his life as a gay man in Egypt centered around his experience as one of the victims of the infamous Queen Boat police raid. This is being translated, I believe, for Hoopoe.

A lot of poetry, some collected, some not, but nearly all available online in some form or another, including, in no order at all, Yasser Abdellatif, Hermes (his collection تفاديات), Rana Al Tonsi, Malaka Badr, Mohab Nasr, Iman Mersal, Ahmed Shafie (who has a new collection, 77, about to come out), Ahmed Nada, Ibrahim El Sayyed and so on. There’s so much to find on Facebook alone.

A couple I’ve worked on

Ma'an Abu Taleb
Ma’an Abu Taleb

All The Battles, Ma’n Abu Taleb:
Abu Taleb sets his novel in the world of working class boxing clubs, and his account of a white-collar ad executive trying to find himself through combat is a deft and quietly subversive exploration of masculinity, ethnicity, cultural identity, sexuality and success that is anchored in the action and processes of training and fighting in the ring. The language is spare and rhythmic, saturating the protagonist’s experiences with the frustration and release of physical exertion, and the fight scenes and training at the club are beautifully rendered thanks to Abu Taleb’s intimate knowledge of the fight game and ear for dialogue.

Paulo, Youssef Rakha:
The sequel to The Crocodiles, Paulo is a murder-mystery and brutal meditation on revolution and conviction set in the run-up to the 2012 Egyptian presidential elections. The novel is written as a series of blog posts by Paulo, who first appears in The Crocodiles as a poet and committed revolutionary, and now works in a bookstore and moonlights as an informer and undercover operative for State Security. In a work of fractured structure and prose he he guides through us through his descent into a world of treachery, torture and insanity.

And one non-Arabic read
The Adventures of Gil Blas de Santillana, Alain Rene Lesage, translated by Tobias Smollet:
I reread this a lot, and have done so this year, so it gets on the list. The great and hugely influential C18th popular story-cycle epic and a wonderful lesson in the ambiguities of authorship, authenticity and translation (fidelity being one of its constant themes). I love this book above all for Smollet’s prose loosely pegged out over the French of Lesage, who, if he wrote it at all as opposed to translated it, had clearly nicked much of it direct from Spanish, which in turn etc etc… Arabs!**

*Translated into English by Robin Moger, see: here.


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