Kareem James Abu-Zeid’s Translation of Jaber’s ‘Confessions’ Makes 2017 PEN Shortlist

PEN America has announced the shortlist for their $3,000 2017 PEN Translation Prize, which honors a book-length translation from any language into English:

confessiosnAmong the shortlist of five is Kareem James Abu-Zeid’s translation of Rabee Jaber’s gorgeous small novel about identity, community, and violence: Confessions.

The book, which deserves much more attention than it’s gotten thus far, is up against stiff competition, including Deborah Smith’s translation of Han Kang’s The Vegetarian. Smith’s translation of The Vegetarian was published a year earlier in the UK, where it took the 2016 Man Booker International.

Others on the shortlist are Barbara Harshav’s translation of Yoram Kaniuk’s Between Life and Death (from the Hebrew), Tess Lewis’s translation of Maja Harderlap’s Angel of Oblivion (from the German), and Kerri A. Pierce’s translation of Iben Mondrup’s Justine (from the Danish).

It’s thus an unusual year, with three books on the shortlist translated from non-European languages. It was also an unusual year in that two books on the longlist were translated from Arabic: Anna Ziajka Stanton’s translation of Hilal Chouman’s Limbo Beirut also made the prize’s diverse ten-book longlist.

On the PEN poetry shortlist, also announced yesterday, a collection of work by Moroccan writer Abdellatif Laâbi also made that five-book list. It was In Praise of Defeat: Poems by Abdellatif Laâbi, translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith — one of two fresh collections of Laâbi’s work out this year.

At Two Lines, you can hear Nicholson-Smith talk about Laâbi’s poetry. And, on The Bomb, read two poems from Laâbi’s ouevre that Nicholson-Smith has translated.

The winners will be announced on February 22, 2017 and is set to be honored at the 2017 PEN America Literary Awards Ceremony on March 27, 2017.