August was Women in Translation Month (#WiTMonth), and each day on ArabLit, we ran writing about women authors whose work was — or should be — in translation. Here, the 2019 essays, creative writing lists, and more gathered in one place:
Essays about women’s writing
Forgetting and Remembering the Fearless Zaynab Fawwaz, Marilyn Booth
This short essay, written by the masterful translator-academic Marilyn Booth, winner of the 2019 Man Booker International for her translation of Jokha al-Harthi’s Celestial Bodies, opens: “When Zaynab Fawwaz died in early 1914, long obituaries appeared in Egypt’s newspapers: she was not forgotten in her own time. Although she had been Egypt-identified through her adulthood at least, over in her natal region, Jabal ‘Amil in the south Lebanon, she was remembered then and later by the redoubtable editor of the important ‘Amili periodical al-‘Irfan (est. 1909), Ahmad ‘Arif al-Zayn – who, however, was critical of what he called her “extremist” (feminist) tendencies.”
Reclaiming the Women of Arabic Popular Epics, Amanda Hannoosh Sternberg
Original fiction and poetry
Pre-release Excerpt of Sahar Khalifeh’s ‘Bab al-Saha’, tr. Sawad Hussain
Palestinian novelist Sahar Khalifeh — winner of the Muhammad Zafzaf Prize — has seen five of her novels translated to English, but not her classic Bab al-Saha, which appears on both Banipal’s “Best 100 Novels” list and the Arab Writers Union’s “Best 105” of the 20th century. It’s forthcoming from the inimitable Seagull Books in Sawad Hussain’s translation. For this year’s Women in Translation Month (#WiTMonth), we had a pre-release excerpt that opens: “In Bab Al-Saha, a quarter of Nablus, sits a house of ill-repute. In it lives Nuzha, a young woman ostracised from and shamed by her community.”
Special Excerpt: ‘Voyage of the Cranes in the Cities of Agate’, tr. Sawad Hussain and Nesrine Amin
‘Blank Bullets’: 2 Poems by Manahel Alsahoui, tr. Sawad Hussain
In different countries, prison novels have flowered in different moments. In Morocco, for instance, there was a flowering after prisoners were released from Tazmamart. There have been many Syrian and Iraqi prison novels this century; one of the most stunning is Mustafa Khalifa’s The Shell (tr. Paul Starkey), published in 2008.
Women’s prison novels and memoirs — outside of El Saadawi’s Memoirs from the Women’s Prison — are lesser-known. Four of the books in this list are in translation; three more are recommendations for translation.
On Sundays during Women in Translation Month, we featured a look at classics — in translation, or not — by Arab women writers. Enayat al-Zayyat’s classic Love and Silence gets a fresh look in Iman Mersal’s new work of nonfiction,”في أثر عنايات الزيات,” Following Enayat al-Zayyat, out now from Kotob Khan Books.
This new book focuses on a nearly-forgotten Egyptian writer, who published one novel, Love and Silence, and committed suicide in 1967. Al-Zayyat’s novel, which remains relevant to the present moment, will also be re-issued by Kotob Khan.
Author and translator interviews
Ibtisam Azem’s The Book of Disappearance was published last month in Sinan Antoon’s English translation. At the heart of the novel is the sudden and unexplained disappearance of the Palestinians living within Israeli territory. As the disappeared stay missing and no explanation surfaces, each character must make decisions about how to move into or around this sudden “absence.” Azem talked about the theme of disappearance and erasure, the writers who inspire her, and creating sympathetic characters from those with whom the reader does not want to sympathize.
Areej Gamal on Revolutions Against ‘What Many See As an Intuitive Truth’, with M Lynx Qualey
Hend Ja’far: Short Storycraft and Reading the Obituaries in Egypt, with M Lynx Qualey
On Raja Alem’s ‘Sarab’ & Translating an Arabic Book Not Published in Arabic, with M Lynx Qualey
Nayrouz Qarmout on Writing, Pessimism, and How ‘Fear Kills Women’, with Orsola Casagrande
Reviews and review-essays
As part of the 2019 Shubbak Festival in London, Lebanese theatre maker Hanane Hajj Ali performed her one-woman show, Jogging, at Notting Hill’s Gate Theatre. The play was primarily in Arabic with English surtitles. Katie Logan writes: “There’s a moment in Hanane Hajj Ali’s Jogging where, after removing her headscarf to perform as another Lebanese woman, Ali tugs off the long, luxurious wig the audience had assumed was her hair. Underneath is yet another covering, this time a thin cap over the hair. The removal of the headscarf leads audience members to presume an act of intimacy on the part of the performer. Instead, the second removal reveals the gesture to be another layer of storytelling and a statement about the nature of one-woman performances, which rely on a powerful connection between audience and performer while also asserting the distance that lies between them.”
Launching Tomorrow: ‘Our Women on the Ground’, M Lynx Qualey
Special for #WiTMonth: Stella Gaitano’s ‘Withered Flowers’, M Lynx Qualey
Lists & resources
For the last day of Women in Translation Month, ArabLit contributing editor Sawad Hussain asked Arab authors around the world to recommend their favorite women writers. Ten authors gave nods to more than thirty writers hailing from eleven different countries.
For Your Syllabus: Teaching Arab Women’s Writing in Translation, with Shady Rohana, Amal Eqeiq, and Emily Drumsta
5 More #WiTMonth Reads from Lebanon’s Feminist Library, from The Knowledge Project
#WiTMonth’s Friday Finds
The story begins: “The sands lolled and swam in the sun’s blazing rays all day, then when darkness fell, they patiently waited for the sun to rise. As far as the eye could see, the sands swelled in every direction, wild and silent. It even felt like they were stealthily watching us. Everyone except the leader and I slept like the dead. We had walked barefoot the whole day, but the journey ahead was still long. The sun had hollowed faces and etched deep lines; lips were painted the color of ash.”