Etel Adnan’s ‘Time’ Wins Best Translated Book Award

Lebanese poet-artist Etel Adnan and translator Sarah Riggs — also the winners of the 2020 Griffin Poetry Prize — have won the Best Translated Book Award, in the poetry category, for Time:

This year’s novel prize went to Daša Drndić’s EEG, translated by Celia Hawkesworth.

Of Time, the jury said, in a prepared statement:

What’s not to savor in Etal Adnan’s philosophical and precise, yet intensely moving Time, thoughtfully and beautifully translated by Sarah Riggs? Adnan does not shy away from questions of mortality…indeed, the book’s opening stanza tells us, “I say that I’m not afraid/ of dying because I haven’t/ yet had the experience/of death.” Later in the book, we learn “There are arteries,/ veins, and other channels/ that all lead to death.” Yet despite it all, we are asked to consider that “Some flowers/ wilt tombs while/ orchards begin/ to blossom.” Indeed, the poems in these six sequences bloom with the beauty the world has to offer as well as those who have created these human-made gifts through the ages: Homer, Issa, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Smith, Shostakovich. Love, death, and the greater cosmos interweave the fabric of ours lives: “there are loves that grow/ like cancers. We attach ourselves/ to them like the body to its illness,/ the moon to the earth.” And even though we’re told that “time can’t be translated,” Sarah Riggs has done a masterful job rendering Adnan’s stunning truths.

Members of this year’s poetry jury were: Nancy Naomi Carlson (poet and translator), Patricia Lockwood (poet), Aditi Machado (poet and translator), Laura Marris (writer and translator), Brandon Shimoda (author).