David Larsen’s Translation of ‘Names of the Lion’ Wins Harold Morton Landon Award

The 2018 Harold Morton Landon Translation Award — selected by Ammiel Alcalay — has gone to David Larsen’s brilliant translation of Ibn Khalawayh’s Names of the Lion, which was published last year:

This $1,000 annual award, established in 1976, recognizes a poetry collection translated from any language into English that was published in the previous calendar year. Each year, a noted translator chooses the winning book.

Tenth-century poet, philologist, court scholar, and tutor Ibn Khalawayh was born in Hamadan, Iran and worked in Baghdad and Aleppo.

On his website, Larsen describes the book as “A thesaurus. A word list. A bestiary with only one beast.”

Judge Ammiel Alacalay said of Larsen’s winning translation:

Among a shortlist of superb translations of major works, David Larsen’s rendition from Arabic of al-Husayn ibn Ahmad ibn Khalawayh’s tenth-century Names of the Lion stands out for its meticulous, uncompromising, and idiosyncratic attempt to forge a poetics within which a text like this can find some footing. Essentially a list of more than 300 names for lion, surrounded by an elaborate apparatus that feels, at times, like a Borges story, Larsen provides a clear window into the vast world of classical Arabic lexicography, biography, and literary criticism. While the primary text may appear almost unlikely, Larsen’s construction of the apparatus in which it is embedded is an act of both deep scholarship and innovative poetics that, like the fate of the lion itself, is a tale of survival.

Also read: ‘Whose Face is Huge and Wears a Hideous Expression’: On David Larsen’s Translation of ‘Names of the Lion’

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