Banipal Books this month launched an English translation of acclaimed Sudanese author Tayeb Salih’s Mansi: A Rare Man in His Own Way:
The book’s translator, Adil Babikir, said over at the Banipal website that this nonfictional work provides a glimpse of Salih’s real life, “without the usual camouflage of the fiction writer.”
Salih (1929-2009) is best-known for his novel Season of Migration to the North. The novel was translated to English by Denys Johnson-Davies, who said back in 2014 that he’d first met Salih at the BBC in London, but it wasn’t until several years later that Salih rang Johnson-Davies up, to show him his fiction.
When I read the story, which was a very short one, called “A Handful of Dates,” I was very impressed and immediately I decided to publish it in the magazine. He was delighted to hear that his short story would appear in Aswat, which was a magazine in which the top Arabic writers were happy to be published.
I then decided to make a translation of the story into English and sent it to the famous English literary magazine Encounter. I was surprised and delighted when they replied to say that they liked the story and could I tell them about the author. Salih was also happy when I informed him that I had translated his story and that it had been accepted for publication in a top English magazine.
Salih went on to publish four novels as well as many other books, including his popular منسي إنسان نادر على طريقته (Mansi: A Rare Man in His Own Way), published in 2004, five years before the author’s death.
From the publisher’s description:
With hum-our, wit and erudite poetic insights, Salih shows another side in this affectionate memoir of his exuberant and irrepressible friend Mansi Yousif Bastawrous, sometimes known as Michael Joseph and sometimes as Ahmed Mansi Yousif. Playing Hardy to Salih’s Laurel Mansi takes centre stage among memorable 20th-century arts and political figures, including Samuel Beckett, Margot Fonteyn, Omar Sharif, Arnold Toynbee, Richard Crossman and even the Queen, but always with Salih’s poet “Master” al-Mutanabbi ready with an adroit comment.