English PEN today announced the seventeen books — from sixteen countries and eleven languages — that have won PEN Translates awards:
The PEN Translates-winning books represent a broad array of genres as well, from novels to non-fiction, poetry to short stories to a children’s picture book. This year, for the first time, the prize goes to books translated from Burmese, Vietnamese, and Romanian.
Two well-known Arabic writers make the list: Iraqi author Hassan Blasim and Palestinian writer Adania Shibli. Blasim’s God 99 is being translated by Jonathan Wright, while Shibli’s Minor Detail is being translated by Elisabeth Jaquette. Both are scheduled for a 2020 release.
Minor Detail was originally published by Dar al-Adab in 2017 and centers around a crime committed in the Palestinian Negev in August, 1949. Decades later, a young woman in Ramallah becomes obsessed with the events surrounding the crime.
Shibil has won a number of awards, and two of her novels have been translated into English and published by Clockroot Books. They are Touch, trans. Paula Haydar, which made the longlist for the Best Translated Book Award; and We Are All Equally Far From Love, trans. Paul Starkey.
Blasim’s God 99 was published by Dar al-Mutawassit, and it opens as “Hassan Blasim” arrives in Finland. From the official description: “A writer and a refugee of the Iraqi civil war, he spends his days working as a veterinarian while he tries to find a way of publishing his work in the Arab world. After he sets up an internet blog he believes he can escape censorship forever. But instead of publishing his old texts he wants to tell new stories. With a project grant from the Finish government he starts to interview people he has heard and read about across several countries. As each interview becomes a story, in a variety of registers, we also hear of Hassan’s own life and journey to Finland through his diary entries.”
Blasim has three overlapping short-story collections available in English, all translated by Jonathan Wright: The Corpse Exhibition, The Iraqi Christ, and Madman of Freedom Square. He also co-edited the collection Iraq + 100. Blasim and Wright won the 2014 Independent Foreign Fiction Prize (IFFP) for The Iraqi Christ and The Corpse Exhibition was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s 10 Best of 2014. Blasim is also a playwright.
Sarah Ardizzone, Co-chair of the English PEN Writers in Translation Committee, said of the selected books:
The depth of field for these PEN Translates awards is breathtaking – from a hard-hitting memoir by a young Rohingya man, to a poignant children’s illustrated work from Slovenia, via a zany exposé of colonised language in a Belarusian novel. We’re proud to be supporting outstanding literary fiction from across Latin America, as well as China, Vietnam, Palestine, Iraq and Romania; together with poetry from Haiti, Cuba and Romania, and short story collections from Malaysia and Myanmar. Dynamic and innovative models for international publishing are especially to be saluted, in a list that is proactively both global and local.
According to the website, “Books are selected for PEN Translates awards on the basis of outstanding literary quality, strength of the publishing project, and contribution to literary diversity in the UK.”
The full list:
Alinarka’s Children by Alhierd Bacharevic, translated from the Belarusian by Jim Dingley. Scotland Street Press, June 2019. Country of origin: Belarus.
God 99 by Hassan Blasim, translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright. Comma Press, January 2020. Country of origin: Iraq.
Crossroads and Lampposts by Trần Dần, translated from the Vietnamese by David Payne. Oneworld Books, September 2020. Country of origin: Vietnam.
Exodus by Benjamin Fondane, translated from the French by Henry King and Andrew Rubens. Carcanet Press, Autumn 2019. Country of origin: Romania.
Chaophony by Franketienne, translated from the French by Andres Naffis-Sahely. Carcanet Press, Autumn 2019. Country of origin: Haiti.
First They Erased Our Names: A Rohingya Speaks by Habiburahman and Sophie Ansel, translated from the French by Andrea Reece. Scribe, August 2019. Country of origin: Australia/Myanmar.
Lake Like A Mirror by Ho Sok Fong, translated from the Chinese by Natascha Bruce. Granta Books, January 2010. Country of origin: Malaysia.
A Little Body Are Many Parts by Legna Rodriguez Iglesias, translated from the Spanish by Abigail Parry and Serafina Vick. The Poetry Translation Centre, October 2019. Country of origin: Cuba.
Theatre of War by Andrea Jeftanovic, translated from the Spanish by Thomas Bunstead. Charco Press, January 2020. Country of origin: Chile.
Felix and His Suitcase by Dunja Jogan, translated from the Slovenian by Olivia Hellewell. Tiny Owl, May 2020. Country of origin: Slovenia.
The Past Is an Imperfect Tense by Bernardo Kucinski, translated from the Portuguese by Tom Gatehouse. Latin American Bureau, November 2019. Country of origin: Brazil.
Loop by Brenda Lozano, translated from the Spanish by Annie McDermott. Charco Press, November 2019. Country of origin: Mexico.
Holiday Heart by Margarita Garcia Robayo, translated from the Spanish by Charlotte Coombe. Charco Press, May 2020. Country of origin: Colombia.
The Town with the Acacia Tree by Mihail Sebastian, translated from the Romanian by Gabi Reigh. Aurora Metro, September 2019. Country of origin: Romania.
Minor Detail by Adania Shibli, translated from the Arabic by Elizabeth Jacquette. Fitzcarraldo Editions, May 2020. Country of origin: Germany/Palestine.
Yezet by various, translated from the Burmese by Alfred Birnbaum. Strangers Press, November 2019. Country of origin: Myanmar.
Hard Like Water by Yan Lianke, translated from the Chinese by Carlos Rojas. Chatto & Windus, February 2020. Country of origin: China.