A List: Arabic Literature Forthcoming in Translation in 2020

A list of titles we believe are forthcoming in 2020. This is an attempt to be completist, as far as is possible, so please add more in the comments:

Winter/Spring 2020

How to Remember Your Dreams, by Amr Ezzat (January 2020, Kayfa Ta and Sternberg Press)

An addition to the stellar “how to” series that includes Iman Mersal’s How to Mend: Motherhood and Its Ghosts and Haytham al-Wardani’s How to Disappear. A must-have in Arabic and in English translation (translator as yet unknown).

The Discourses, Reflections on History, Sufism, Theology, and Literature—Volume Oneby al-Hasan al-Yusi, edited and translated by Justin Stearns (January 2020, Library of Arabic Literature)

From the publisher:

Al-Hasan al-Yusi was arguably the most influential and well-known Moroccan intellectual figure of his generation. In 1084/1685, at the age of roughly fifty-four, and after a long and distinguished career, this Amazigh scholar from the Middle Atlas began writing a collection of short essays on a wide variety of subjects. Completed three years later and gathered together under the title Discourses on Language and Literature (al-Muhadarat fi l-adab wa-l-lughah), they offer rich insight into the varied intellectual interests of an ambitious and gifted Moroccan scholar, covering subjects as diverse as genealogy, theology, Sufism, history, and social mores.

In addition to representing the author’s intellectual interests, The Discourses also includes numerous autobiographical anecdotes, which offer valuable insight into the history of Morocco, including the transition from the Saadian to the Alaouite dynasty, which occurred during al-Yusi’s lifetime. Translated into English for the first time, The Discourses offers readers access to the intellectual landscape of the early modern Muslim world through an author who speaks openly and frankly about his personal life and his relationships with his country’s rulers, scholars, and commoners.

Passage to the Plaza, by Sahar Khalifeh, translated by Sawad Hussain (February 2020, Seagull)

Sahar Khalifeh, who was a finalist for this year’s prestigious Neustadt Prize, has seen a number of her novels translated to English—but not her classic Bab al-Saha, which appears both on the Banipal list of the “best 100 Arabic novels” and was also voted by the Arab Writers Union as one of the best 105 novels of the twentieth century. It’s set in and around a “house of ill repute” in Bab Al-Saha, a quarter of Nablus, during the 1987 Intifada, and is a woman-focused narration of conflict.

The Magnificent Conman of Cairo, by Adel Kamel, translated by Waleed Almusharaf, with a foreword by Naguib Mahfouz (March 2020, Hoopoe Fiction)

It’s delightful to see AUC Press bringing out this 1942 cult classic by Adel Kamel (1916-2005), which was re-issued in Arabic in 2014. Kamel wrote only a few works, and all of them seemingly between 1938 and 1942. In a 1996 interview with Sabry Hafez, translated by Sherif Abdel Samad, Kamel said, “I poured so much love into it, it was tantamount to adoration… But the shock was cruel… I soon discovered that I wrote plays the theater did not care for, and novels I published at my own expense that no one read. I felt like a bride that meticulously put on her make-up and made herself pretty for a groom she could not find.”

Book of Sleep, by Haytham al-Wardani, translated by Robin Moger (March 2020, Seagull)

What is sleep? Like in al-Wardani’s How to Disappear, in Book of Sleep he moves between philosophy, anecdote, poetry, political analysis, and story to give us a portrait both of Egypt in the spring of 2013 and of the state of being we call “the little death.”

The Frightened Ones, by Dima Wannous, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette (March 2020, Harvill Secker)

Shortlisted for the 2018 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, The Frightened Ones begins when two Syrians, Suleima and Nassim, meet in the lobby of their therapist’s office in Damascus.

The Slave Yardsby Najwa Binshatwan, translated by Nancy Roberts (April 2020, Syracuse University Press)

Set in late nineteenth-century Benghazi, Najwa Binshatwan’s International Prize for Arabic Fiction-shortlisted novel tells the story of Atiqa, the daughter of an enslaved woman whose life is upturned by the appearance of an unexpected cousin.

Once Upon a Time in Aleppo, by Fouad M. Fouad, co-translated by Fouad and Norbert Hirschhorn (Spring 2020, Hippocrates Press)

This collection opens, unusually, with a poem by translator Hirschhorn dedicated to his collaborator, Fouad. The pair are doctor-poets and for years have been working together on translations. This bilingual collection keeps Fouad’s poems in the original Arabic, while also interleaving Hirschhorn’s translations, which take place between human bodies and cafes and hospital corridors: “Don’t rest your head on that foul sheet / Don’t ask the woman behind the door / Why she is crying.”

Spring/Summer 2020

The Butcher of Casablanca, Abdelilah Hamdouchi, translated by Peter Daniel (April 2020, Hoopoe Fiction)

Abdelilah Hamdouchi has been one of the foremost authors of the Moroccan crime novel, largely set in the coastal cities of Casablanca and Tangier. His 2000 Whitefly, translated by Jonathan Smolin,is a police procedural that kicks off when the bodies of four men are discovered at the shore. His2001 Final Bet, also translated by Smolin, follows what unfolds after an elderly Frenchwoman—married to a young Moroccan man—is murdered.

The Butcher of Casablanca is part of a new crime series, which started with his novel Bled Dry, in which a Detective Hanash investigates the double murder of a prostitute and her lover. In The Butcher of Casablanca, Hanash follows a serial killer who is terrorizing Casablanca, who has the gall to leave a victim, on the first day of the Eid holiday, right outside the central police headquarters. 

Impostures, by al-Hariri, translated by Michael Cooperson, with a foreword by Abdelfattah Kilito (May 2020, Library of Arabic Literature)                                                                                                    

Al-Hariri (1054-1122) was a poet and scholar who lived in Basra, Iraq during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and is known for his standard-setting maqamat, an Arabic genre that sits between poetry and prose.

Translator Esther Allen has called al-Hariri’s Impostures, in Cooperson’s translation, “Melville’s Confidence Man meets Queneau’s Exercices de style.”The 50 maqamat in Impostures, once memorized by scholars,follow Abu Zayd al-Saruji as he impersonates a preacher, pretends to be blind, and lies to a judge, speaking in poetry, palindromes, and riddles. Although there are previous English translations, including one by Thomas Chenery and Francis J. Steingass published in 1867 and one by Amina Shah published in 1980, Cooperson’s is an attempt not at scholarly accuracy, but to translate the Arabic wordplay into wordplay of his own. 

Alya and the Three Cats, by Amina Hachimi Alaoui, ill Maya Fidawi, tr. Mehdi Retnani (April 2020, Crackboom Books)

 Minor Detail, by Adania Shibli, translated by Elisabeth Jaquette (May 2020, New Directions)

Adania Shibli is a prose stylist whose earlier novels Touch (translated by Paula Haydar) and We Are All Equally Far from Love (translated by Paul Starkey) examine the difficulty of understanding ourselves and the world around us in settings limned in by Israeli occupation.

Her latest novel, translated by the award-winning Jaquette,takes place in two times: one is the summer of 1949 when Israeli soldiers murder an encampment of Bedouin in the Negev desert, including a teenaged girl who is first raped, then killed, then buried in the desert. The other is the present day, as a woman in Ramallah is looking into this minor detail, a crime committed exactly twenty-five years before she was born. 

Stories Under Occupation: And Other Plays from Palestine, edited by Samer al-Sabeer and Gary M. English (June 2020, Seagull)

This collection, which offers a glimpse into contemporary Palestinian theatre, brings together works from all across the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem.

Embrace by Najwan Darwish, translated by Paul Batchelor and Atef Alshaer (June 2020, Poetry Translation Centre)

Poems by award-winning Najwan Darwish, whose 2014 Nothing More to Losetr. Kareem James Abu-Zeid, was released to wide acclaim.

Fall 2020

My First Love, by Sahar Khalifeh (Fall 2020, Hoopoe Fiction)

Khalifeh’s 2014 novel My First Love is a continuation of the story that begins in her International Prize for Arabic Fiction-longlisted novel Of Noble Origins (2009), set around women’s stories and lives in just before the 1948 expulsion of Palestinians and the establishing of Israel.

Passion, Rasha Adly (Fall 2020, Hoopoe Fiction)

The central theme of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction-longlisted novel is, unsurprisingly, passion. Each of the characters is driven by passion for something different, depending on their personalities, backgrounds and the time in which they live. The novel is set in two historical periods, linked by a painting of an Egyptian girl called Zeinab, which arrives in the restoration department along with books and manuscripts damaged by the fire in the Institut d’Égypt during the January revolution. While she is restoring it, Yasmin, a researcher and art historian, discovers a terrible secret. Meanwhile, in the time of the French campaign against Egypt, Zeinab herself reveals the truth of her relationships with Napoleon Bonaparte and one of the artists in his entourage.

Wondrous Journeys in Amazing Lands, by Sonia Nimr, translated by M Lynx Qualey (Fall 2020, Interlink Books)

This novel won the Etisalat Prize for Arabic Children’s Literature in the Young Adult category, and it will be a thrilling read for adults and children alike. It follows the adventures of the medieval Palestinian girl, Qamr, who sets off from her small village life in Palestine and finds herself kidnapped, enslaved, escaped, joining pirates, opening a bookshop, finding love, and having a hundred other adventures before finally, in the end, finding (we hope) what she was searching for.

Catalogue of a Private Life, by Najwa Binshatwan, translated by Sawad Hussain. (Fall 2020, Dedalus Africa)

A PEN Translates-winning collection of short stories by 2019 ArabLit Story Prize-winning team Binshatwan and Hussain. This collection is forthcoming in 2020 or, perhaps, 2021.

Laila and the Lamb, by Fadi Zaghmout, translator not listed (Fall 2020, Signal8Press)

This will be Zaghmout’s third novel in English translation, following his popular  Bride of Amman, which was translated to English by Ahmedzai Kemp, and the spec-fic Heaven on Earth, translated to English by Sawad Hussein. For his third novel, Laila and the Lamb, Zaghmout said he wanted to write a “radical feminist book,” inspired by Angela Carter’s The Passion of New Eve. 

Also read:  A List: French Maghrebi Literature Forthcoming in Translation in 2020