Rabee Jaber and Kareem James Abu-Zeid Win 2017 PEN Center USA Translation Award for ‘Confessions’

PEN Center USA announced today that Rabee Jaber’s gorgeous short novel Confessions, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid, was winner of a 2017 Literary Award in the Translation category:

In a statement posted to Facebook, Abu-Zeid wrote:

Translations help foster cross-cultural understanding, and are particularly relevant in times like these, when so many people in the US and around the world are retreating into their nationalist shells (out of fear and a lack of understanding). Translations can remind us of our shared humanity, and I think this novel, a tale of kidnapping and mistaken identity during the Lebanese Civil War, does a marvelous job of that. I feel very lucky and blessed to be able to bring works from Arabic literature to a broader English-speaking audience.

So much of the credit for this prize goes to the book’s editor, Tynan Kogane at New Directions press – Tynan and I had many back and forths trying to get the text just right, it was a truly a labor of love. Barbara Epler also lent us some of her invaluable expertise in the process. Also, huge thanks to the judges, who undoubtedly put in very long hours reading all the excellent works under consideration.

According to organizers, the 2017 Literary Awards will be presented at The 27th Annual Literary Awards Festival at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel next month.

PEN Center USA, which bills itself as “the world’s oldest international literary and human rights organization,” is the West Coast center of PEN International. This year’s translation-prize judges were Jennifer Croft, Elisabeth Jaquette, and Idra Novey.

The other winners were Martin Pousson, for Black Sheep Boy, in fiction; Paul Kalanithi, for When Breath Becomes Air, in creative nonfiction; Elizabeth Letts, for The Perfect Horse, in research nonfiction; Solmaz Sharif, for Look, in poetry; Stacey Lee, for Outrun the Moon, in young adult; Eli Saslow, for “The White Flight of Derek Black,” in journalism; and Lisa Loomer, for Roe, in drama.

Read a review of Confessions that appeared in The Chicago Tribune, written by ArabLit’s chief editor.

A Q&A with Jaber’s English-language translator, Kareem James Abu-Zeid: On Translating Rabee Jaber, Finally

Interviews with Jaber:

A video interview in the spring of 2011

December 2011, with IPAF organizers

With BBC Extra


Of The Birds of Holiday Inn, trans. Ghenwa Hayek