Lara Vergnaud Wins PEN/Heim to Translate Yamen Manai’s ‘The Ardent Swarm’

2019 PEN/Heim grants were announced today. While there were no Arabic projects among the ten winners — from eight languages — but ArabLit Quarterly contributing editor Lara Vergnaud won a grant to translate Tunisian novelist Yamen Manai’s novel The Ardent Swarm (L’amas ardent):

The PEN Translation Fund chose their winners from among 237 total applications, representing a “wide array of languages of origin, genres, and time periods.”

Each translator will receive a grant of $3,500 to assist in the project’s completion.

From PEN:

In Yamen Manai’s prizewinning third novel, the devastation of a beekeeper’s hive by a hornet attack serves as a microcosm for the aftermath of Tunisia’s 2011 Jasmine Revolution. This absorbing contemporary fable, which Lara Vergnaud has rendered in a lucid and sensitive translation, vividly portrays the complicated and destabilizing arrival of democracy in a rural village. Rich with apicultural detail, wry humor, and compelling characters, The Ardent Swarm is a memorable and significant novel.

From The Ardent Swarm:
That night, Sidi didn’t get any sleep. Before sitting down on his veranda, which offered an uninterrupted view of the entire hillside, he had visited his hives, lifting up their roofs one by one and thanks to a small sliver of moonlight, observing their many, countless occupants as they slept. He visited the destroyed hive last, his heart sinking as he approached it. That very morning, he had discovered the bodies of thirty thousand of his bees at the foot of the wooden structure. Most of them ripped to pieces. Thirty thousand bees. Workers. Foragers. Guards. The heart of the hive wasn’t spared either. This evil had no limit and had crept as far as the sacred quarters. The cells were desecrated, the caps torn, and the larvae ripped from the warmth of their cocoons. Not one drop of honey was left. It was all gone, as if it had been drunk with a straw. And amid the wreckage, the queen. Lethally wounded, legs turned toward the sky as in a final prayer. An entire colony destroyed and pillaged in less than two hours time—a massacre. 

Rights to this translation are available, and you can read an excerpt on Asymptote.

Also: L’Amas ardent de Yamen Manai reçoit le Prix Lorientales 2018