Friday Finds: Emma Ramadan on Translating Meryem Alaoui’s ‘Straight From the Horse’s Mouth’

The Asymptote Book Club’s September 2020 selection was Emma Ramadan’s translation of Meryem Alaoui’s Straight from the Horse’s Mouth:

As part of the book-club materials, Asymptote editor Allison Braden talked with Ramadan about the book in “Shunning Stereotypes.”

Even though the book centers a female character who works in a field often, in Arabic literature, linked to Morocco (a sex worker), it does so with humor, warmth, and a tumbling, cartwheeling taste for the fantastic.

There is an excerpt on LitHub, and another at the Other Press website.

And at Asymptote, Ramadan talks about how she came to the novel, what she loves about it, and the challenge of bringing its protagonist’s voice into English. She also takes a detour into why there aren’t enough funny books translated to English.


These more fun, funny, light books that have a lot to say—that definitely have their readers and an importance of their own—may not seem as appealing or worthy in that way, but I would really disagree. Sometimes you just want to translate a book because it’s really good, and good doesn’t necessarily mean heavy and political and invested with all this cultural capital about what it means to live in a specific place. Sometimes it can just be a great book. And that should be, and is, enough.

Read excerpts:

At LitHub

At the Other Press website

The talk with translator Emma Ramadan:

Shunning Stereotypes: Emma Ramadan on Translating Meryem Alaoui’s Straight From the Horse’s Mouth

The book-club discussion:

Is for Asymptote members only