Arabic Events at American Literary Translators Association’s 2020 (Virtual) Conference

The 2020 American Literary Translations Association (ALTA) conference — set to run virtually from September 30 through October 18 — has a number of panels, discussions, and workshops that involve (or could involve) Arabic literature:

The complete 2020 schedule is now online. For this year’s virtual event, there will be five types of events. These are: sessions, readings, workshops, special events, and — for the first time this year — caucuses.

Some events will be open only to ALTA registrants; others will be free and open to the general public.

October 1

2020 ALTA Mentorship Program Reading

This event is free and open to the public; at it, Madeline Edwards will be reading from her translations of Jan Dost’s work, some of which was published in ArabLit Quarterly’s THE ROAD issue earlier this year.

From organizers:

2020 marked the fifth year of ALTA’s mentorship program for emerging translators. The ALTA Emerging Translator Mentorship Program was founded by former ALTA Board Member Allison M. Charette, and is designed to establish and facilitate a close working relationship between an experienced translator and an emerging translator on a book-length project selected by the emerging translator. This year, ALTA offered mentorships in Arabic poetry or prose, Catalan poetry or prose, poetry from Hong Kong, Korean poetry, Korean prose, Russian prose, as well as one non-language-specific, non-genre-specific mentorship.

October 3 & 24

BIPOC Heritage Speaker Caucus

This is also free and open to the public; interested translators can register or simply show up to this caucus, facilitated by Anni Liu, Chenxin Jiang, and Jeremy Tiang. They write:

A caucus will be convened for translators who identify as BIPOC heritage speakers, consisting of a Zoom happy hour at the start of the ALTA conference, and a follow-up session the week after the conference. This will be a space for community-building that we hope will lead to a sustained year-round conversation about questions of craft and the literary culture(s) we want to build.

October 4 (submissions due September 24)

Arabic Translation Workshop

This workshop will be moderated by Elisabeth Jaquette and Kareem James Abu-Zeid. They write:

Struggling with a passage or a title that is resisting translation? Looking for some creative camaraderie in these days of isolation? Come join fellow Arabic-to-English translators for an interactive workshop. Bring a conundrum (one to three sentences) that has been stumping you—an idiom, a title, a line of dialogue—or simply put heads together with fellow Arabic translators. We’ll focus on specific solutions for each participant’s dilemma, and also discuss possible general approaches that these short “case studies” suggest. Please send the passage in Arabic as well as your working draft in English (if you have one) to and by September 24. While aimed primarily at fellow Arabic translators, this workshop welcomes those working from any language.

October 5

Retranslation: Challenges and Opportunities

Kareem James Abu-Zeid will moderate this multi-lingual panel on retranslation, where he’ll speak about the challenges of retranslating Adonis, and the other presenters (Peter Constantine and Tal Goldfajn) will speak about Portuguese, biblical Hebrew, and Aberisht. From organizers:

This panel will explore the in-between nature of retranslating literary texts from both practical and theoretical perspectives, and will address the following questions: What are the driving forces behind retranslations? What textual and publishing challenges does the retranslator face? How are struggles and competition within certain fields of scholarship involved in retranslations? What can the inconstant permutations of retranslations teach us about translation’s constant state of betweenness? And can we consider retranslation a teleological act?

October 6

Bilingual Reading Series: Middle East

This event is free and open to the public. It will feature authors and translators, including Julie Yelle, Shadi Rohana, Bekriah Mawasi, Paula Haydar, Nadine Sinno, Rachel Neve-Midbar, Mahmoud Hosny, Karolina Dejnicka, and Niloufar Talebi.

October 10

POC Caucus

This caucus is also free and open to the public. The facilitators are Bruna Dantas Lobato and Mariam Rahmani. They write:

A caucus for translators who identify as POC will assemble for the first time at the start of this year’s ALTA conference for a happy hour and meet-and-greet. This space will serve as a forum to discuss our work and practice, to exchange our experiences and wisdom, and address issues in our industry. We hope this will be a place of community-building and conversation, where our work is at the center and not in the margins.

October 12

Children’s Literature in Translation: Beyond Three Percent

This event will feature, among other panelists, Arabic-English translator and WorldKidLit editor-in-chief Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp. From organizers:

Children’s literature all too often falls through the cracks in discussions about literature in translation, even though children’s book sales have remained stable, and growing numbers of children’s books are translated. Daniel Hahn, Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, and David Jacobson will discuss efforts to promote the translation of children’s literature, as well as the challenges that remain. Who are the central players promoting literature in translation, and how can translators help them? Would publishers and translators benefit from attending the Bologna Children’s Book Fair? What other routes are there for those in the book industry to find out about the best new children’s books from around the world? This aims to be a discussion-oriented session, with ample time for audience questions.

October 17

Literature Across Frontiers: Translating Minorized Languages in Europe 

This panel will include Kurdish translator Kareem Abdulrahman, whose translation of Bakhtiyar Ali’s I Stared at the Night of the City was the first Kurdish novel to be translated into English. His next translation,The Last Pomegranate, also by Ali, is due to be published by Archipelago Books next year.

October 18

The #ArabicTranslationChallenge

From organizers:

Since March 2020, Kevin Blankinship, who teaches Arabic at Brigham Young University, has hosted a weekly Arabic Translation Challenge on Twitter (and on from May 2020). On Tuesdays, we put up a challenge, including an intro, Arabic text to translate, and mention of existing translations. Next, we invite renderings into any language from all who want to join, with a deadline of Friday at noon EST. Then on Saturday, we do a highlights roundup of that week, but not like a contest: the goal is to showcase many styles without privileging any. What began as a diverting pastime has become a vibrant community. This roundtable will be a discussion of the series with Dr. Blankinship, founder Marcia Lynx Qualey, and two guest hosts, Dr. Rachel Schine and novelist Youssef Rakha.

Find out more about ALTA 43 at their website.