World Editions to Publish Samar Yazbek’s ‘Blue Pen’ in 2021

Publishing house World Editions has acquired what seems to be its first-ever Arabic title: Syrian author Samar Yazbek’s Blue Pen (originally: المشّاءة), which is set to be translated by Banipal Prize-winning Leri Price:

The book is scheduled for English publication in Fall 2021.

The Blue Pen has already appeared in French translation by novelist-translator Khaled Osman, as La marcheuseand was a 2018 Prix Femina finalist.

Yazbek’s novel follows Rima, a girl from Damascus who cannot stop walking. She has no control over her legs that are automatically set in motion the moment she is free to walk, a characteristic that has shaped her life. Rima grows up tied to her mother, confined in the school library, tied to her bed at home. The war comes closer, but Rima’s life — within limits — is happy. Then her mother is shot by a soldier at a checkpoint and dies. When she awakes, she doesn’t know where she’s been taken.

From a review in Livres Hebdo, translated by Yasmina Jraissati:

At first, we are disconcerted by Rima’s unstructured flow of words, addressed directly to the readers. We don’t know if she is simple-minded, traumatized or locked in a narrow mental cage. But it doesn’t matter, since Samar Yazbek embarks us on a destiny “always pushed forward by an irresistible force.” The power of life, literature, art and a look that seeks to broaden the horizon. “To make words dance on the blank page” is the power of this poignant novel.

The novel was published by Dar al-Adab in 2016.

World Editions, a publisher of many acclaimed translations, is also bringing out Amin Maalouf’s Disoriented, translated from the French by Frank Wynne, later this year.

By Yazbek, in English translation:

The Crossingtr. Nashwa Gowanlock and Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp | Cinnamontr. Emily Danby | A Woman in the Crossfiretr. Max Weiss

Also read:

Translate This! Samar Yazbek’s ’19 Women’

Oda Myran Winsnes Wins 2016 Norwegian Booksellers’ Prize for Translation of Samar Yazbek’s ‘The Crossing’

Samar Yazbek Wins France’s ‘Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger’

Samar Yazbek ‘Never Dreamed She Would Have to Write a Book Like This’

This Year’s PEN Pinter International Writers of Courage: Carol Ann Duffy, Samar Yazbek

On the Norwegian edition:

Forlagsliv asks: Did Samar Yazbek write our most important novel?

On the Swedish edition:

Ingenious character, and a literary approach on the verge of the unimaginable