Winter 2021 PEN Translates Awards: Algerian Historical Crime, Kurdish SF, Syrian Synesthesia, & More

English PEN has finally announced the winners of its flagship grant program, PEN Translates, for Winter/Spring 2021. They will support 15 titles from 14 countries in 12 languages, including two titles translated from Arabic:

Also among the awarded titles is a collection of Kurdish speculative fiction, Kurdistan + 100, modeled after the successful Iraq + 100 and Palestine + 100 collections published by Comma Press.

In her prepared statement, co-chair of the English PEN Translation Advisory Group Sarah Ardizzone noted that these were challenging times for the UK publishing industry, but that also there are “exciting opportunities for reimagining a more internationalist future.” She added that, in addition to showcasing a diverse range of titles — “poetry from Belarus and Benin, historical YA fiction from the Algerian Arabic and short stories as Kurdish speculative fiction” — they are also supporting a diverse range of publishers, “from the new and innovative Afropolitan Digital to Jonathan Cape in its centennial year.”

As Elisabeth Jaquette wrote in Words Without Borders, Djinn’s Apple is part crime novel, part historical fiction:

Djamila Morani’s The Djinn’s Apple takes place in Baghdad in the Abbasid period, during the rule of Harun Al-Rashid (786–809). In the excerpt included here, “Black Saturday,” twelve-year-old Nardeen witnesses the assassination of her family and narrowly escapes herself. Part crime novel, part historical fiction, The Djinn’s Apple follows gutsy Nardeen as she seeks to discover who wanted her father dead—and why. Djamila Morani is an Algerian writer who works as a teacher of Arabic language and literature. She is the author of The Djinn’s Apple and Crown of Sin.

You can read an excerpt from the novel, in Sawad Hussain’s translation, at WWB.

The Blue Pen has already appeared in French translation by novelist-translator Khaled Osman, as La marcheuseand was a 2018 Prix Femina finalist. It will appear as Planet of Clay in English, in Leri Price’s excellent translation.

Yazbek’s novel follows Rima, a girl from Damascus whose feet cannot stop walking, whose tongue is stopped (except when reciting from the Qur’an), and for whom senses blend and overlap. The novel is a moving look at the horrors of war through Rima’s point of view.

Contributors to the Kurdistan + 100 collection include Sema Kaygusuz, Meral Simsek, Muharrem Erbey, Huseyin Karabey, Nariman Evdike, Omer Dilsoz, Yildiz Cakar, Qadir Agid, Ronya Othmann, Selahattin Demirtas, and Ava Homa.

The full list of PEN Translates award winners:

The German Crocodile by Ijoma Mangold, translated from the German by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp (Afropolitan Digital Limited). Country of origin: Germany.

Oldladyvoice by Elisa Victoria, translated from the Spanish by Charlotte Whittle (And Other Stories). Country of origin: Spain.

In My Garden of Mutants by Volha Hapeyeva, translated from the Belarusian by Annie Rutherford (Arc Publications). Country of origin: Belarus.

Inexile by Sheyla Smanioto, translated from the Portuguese by Sophie Lewisand Laura Garmeson (Boiler House Press). Country of origin: Brazil.

Rooftop by Fernanda Trias, translated from the Spanish by Annie McDermott(Charco Press). Country of origin: Uruguay.

Kurdistan +100, translated from Turkish, Kurmanji and German (Comma Press). Countries of origin: Turkey, Syria, Germany.

Voice of the Two Shores by Agnès Agboton, translated from the Gun and Spanish by Lawrence Schimel (flipped eye publishing). Countries of origin: Benin and Spain.

Forty Lost Years by Rosa Maria Arquimbau, translated from the Catalan by Peter Bush (Fum d’Estampa Press). Country of origin: Spain.

Theta by Daniela Hodrová, translated from the Czech by Elena Sokol and Véronique Firkusny (Jantar Publishing). Country of origin: Czech Republic.

Easy Reading by Cristina Morales, translated from the Spanish by Kevin Dunn (Jonathan Cape). Country of origin: Spain.

The Djinn’s Apple by Djamila Morani, translated from the Arabic by Sawad Hussain (Neem Tree Press). Country of origin: Algeria.

A Feminist Reading of Debt by Luci Cavallero and Veronica Gago, translated from the Spanish by Liz Mason-Deese (Pluto Press). Country of origin: Argentina.

Punishment of a Hunter by Yulia Yakovleva, translated from the Russian by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp (Pushkin Press). Country of origin: Russia.

Little Brother by Ibrahima Balde and Amets Arzallus Anita, translated from the Basque by Timberlake Wertenbaker (Scribe). Countries of origin: Guinea, Spain and France.

The Blue Pen by Samar Yazbek, translated from the Arabic by Leri Price (World Editions). Country of origin: Syria.

Also read:

Why Djamila Morani’s ‘The Djinn’s Apple’ Should Be on the IPAF Longlist, Not Amin Zaoui