14 Translations To Look for in Fall 2021

Fourteen of the translations coming from Arabic to English in the fall of 2021:


Here is a Body, by Basma Abdel Aziz, tr. Jonathan Wright (Hoopoe Fiction)

From the publisher:

Mysterious men are rounding up street children and enrolling them in a so-called “rehabilitation program,” designed to indoctrinate them for the military-backed regime’s imminent crackdown on its opponents. Across town, thousands of protesters encamp in a city square demanding the return of the recently deposed president.

Reminiscent of recent clashes in Egypt and reflective of political movements worldwide where civilians face off against state power, Abdel Aziz deftly illustrates the universal human struggles between resisting and succumbing to an oppressive regime. Here Is A Body is a courageous and powerful depiction of the state cooptation of human bodies, the dehumanization of marginalized groups, and the use of inflammatory religious rhetoric to manipulate a narrative.

A Dove in Free Flight, by Faraj Bayrakdar, ed. Ammiel Alcalay and Shareah Taleghani, tr. by by the New York Translation Collective

From Elias Khoury:

Among the tales and the tortured souls, a small collection of poems by the Syrian poet Faraj Bayrakdar made us pause; A Dove in Free Flight is a collection which the poet wrote during his long incarceration in Syrian prisons.  His friends published it in Beirut without his knowledge so that the book could become one of the instruments of pressure on the authorities of his country and mobilize international, intellectual opinion, particularly in France, for the purpose of setting the poet free.

Planet of Clay, Samar Yazbek, tr. Leri Price (World Editions)

From the publisher:

Since Rima hardly ever speaks, people think she’s crazy, but she is no fool—the madness is in the battered city around her. One day while taking a bus through Damascus, a soldier opens fire and her mother is killed. Rima, wounded, is taken to a military hospital before her brother leads her to the besieged area of Ghouta—where, between bombings, she writes her story. In Planet of Clay, Samar Yazbek offers a surreal depiction of the horrors taking place in Syria, in vivid and poetic language and with a sharp eye for detail and beauty.


Come Take a Gentle Stab! Selections from Salim Barakat, by Salim Barakat, tr. Huda Fakhreddine & Jayson Iwen (Seagull Books)

From the publisher:

Although Salim Barakat is one of the most renowned and respected contemporary writers in Arabic letters, he remains virtually unknown in the English-speaking world. This first collection of his poetry in English, representing every stage of his career, remedies that startling omission. Come, Take a Gentle Stab features selections from his most acclaimed works of poetry, including excerpts from his book-length poems, rendered into an English that captures the exultation of language for which he is famous.

You Have Not Yet Been Defeated: Selected Writings 2011-2019, by Alaa Abd El-Fattah, tr. by various

From the publisher:

Alaa Abd el-Fattah, 39, is arguably the most high profile political prisoner in Egypt, if not the Arab world. A leading figure among the young technologists and bloggers of the 2000s he rose to international prominence during the revolution of 2011. A fiercely independent thinker who fuses politics and technology in powerful prose, an activist whose ideas represent a global generation which has only known struggle against a failing system, a public intellectual with the rare courage to offer personal, painful honesty, Alaa’s written voice came to symbolize much of what was fresh, inspiring and revolutionary about the uprisings that have defined the last decade. Alaa has been in prison for most of the last seven years and many of the pieces collected here were smuggled out of his cell. From theses on technology, to theories of history, to painful reflections on the meaning of prison, his voice in these pages – arranged by family and friends – cuts as sharply relevant, as dangerous, as ever.

Memoirs of a Militant: My Years in the Khiam Women’s Prison, by Nawal Qasim Baidoun, edited and introduced by Malek Abisaab and Michelle Hartman, tr. Michelle Hartman and Caline Nasrallah (Interlink Books)

From the publisher:

In the haunting and inspiring Memoirs of a Militant: My Years in the Khiam Women’s Prison Nawal Baidoun offers us her first-person account of the life of a young woman activist imprisoned for four years, as well as the events leading up to her arrest and detention. Born into a nationalist family in Bint Jbeil, Lebanon, not far from the location of the prison itself, Baidoun, like so many others, found herself compelled to take up arms to resist the Israeli occupation. Her memoir skillfully weaves together two stories: that of the oppressive conditions facing ordinary people and families in South Lebanon, and that of the horrors of daily life and the struggle for survival inside the prison itself.

I Do Not Sleepby Ihsan Abdel Kouddous, tr. Jonathan Smolin (Hoopoe Fiction)

From the translator’s introduction:

When he began writing I Do Not Sleep in 1955, Ihsan was already considered Egypt’s most popular writer. By the time he died in 1990, he had published more than sixty books, including twenty novels and some six hundred short stories.

The Italian, by Shukri al-Mabkhout, tr. Karen McNeil and Miled Faiza (Europa Editions)

From the publisher:

Winner of the 2015 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, the most important literary prize in the Arab world, The Italian tells an emblematic story of the shipwreck of the Arab Springs. . . .  The narrator, a childhood friend of the protagonist, retraces the story of Abdel Nasser from his days as a free and rebellious adolescent spirit to the leader of a student movement and then affirmed journalist.


The Annotated Arabian Nights, translated by Yasmine Seale (W.W. Norton)

From the publisher:

A groundbreaking translation―along with new commentary and hundreds of images―enhances this celebratory publication of the most famous story collection of all time.

From the translator:

This book gives a glimpse of the Nights’ tangled journey. It includes core Arabic tales, the Sinbad cycle, and the stories told by Hanna Diyab—on which more here (https://bit.ly/3uNBWmg) and here (https://bit.ly/3wVeKEk)—which were first written down in French.

 Ever Since I Did Not Die, Ramy al-Asheq, tr. Isis Nusair (Seagull Books)

From the author:

“I gathered these texts like someone collecting body parts. Here are the pieces of my body, haphazardly brought together in a paper bag. It looks like me with all my madness and sickness—how the revolution made me grow up, what the war broke inside me, and what exile chipped away.”

Kalīlah and Dimnah, by Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ, edited by Michael Fishbein, translated by Michael Fishbein and James E. Montgomery

From the publisher:

Like Aesop’s FablesKalīlah and Dimnah is a collection designed not only for moral instruction, but also for the entertainment of readers. The stories, which originated in the Sanskrit Panchatantra and Mahabharata, were adapted, augmented, and translated into Arabic by the scholar and state official Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ in the second/eighth century. The stories are engaging, entertaining, and often funny, from “The Man Who Found a Treasure But Could Not Keep It,” to “The Raven Who Tried To Learn To Walk Like a Partridge” and “How the Wolf, the Raven, and the Jackal Destroyed the Camel.” 

Kalīlah and Dimnah is a “mirror for princes,” a book meant to inculcate virtues and discernment in rulers and warn against flattery and deception. Many of the animals who populate the book represent ministers counseling kings, friends advising friends, or wives admonishing husbands. Throughout, Kalīlah and Dimnah offers insight into the moral lessons Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ believed were important for rulers—and readers.

Catalogue of a Private Life, by Najwa Binshatwan, tr. Sawad Hussain (Dedalus Books)

From the publisher:

A grandmother who takes on a thief trying to seduce her daughters. A guard who fantasises about killing his general while locked in battle with a non-existent enemy. A film script about Libya’s traffic problems improvised at a workshop. A woman’s letter from her old school, which is now a makeshift refugee camp. A cow straying into a field, breaking an age-old truce between warring factions. The eight stories of Catalogue of a Private Life feel like oft-recounted folktales, where the ordinary has been softly twisted several degrees. Najwa Bin Shatwan navigates the tensions between loyalty and betrayal, ambition and regret, and tenderness and cruelty to weave a portrait of family, war and nation against a stark backdrop of the completely absurd.


The Drowning, by Hammour Ziada, tr. Paul G. Starkey (Interlink Books)

From the publisher:

Sudan, 1968, the military coup taking place in Khartoum echoes all the way to the small rural town of Hajer Narti, where the body of a young girl has just been found in the Nile. Like every time a body is washed up on the shore, Fatima shows up, According to popular belief, when the Nile brings a new body back, it also brings back an old one. Fatima is still looking for her daughter Souad, believed to have drowned many years ago. 

The Drowning is Hammour Ziada’s third novel. With scarce descriptions, and just the minimal amount of words, Ziada succeeds in portraying very convincing characters, and in poignantly capturing the violence of social relations in a strictly codified society. Only 13 year-old Abeer eludes the reader. Like a dream all men try to catch throughout the novel, Abeer floats silently across town, a fluttering butterfly.

The Dance of the Deep-blue Scorpion, by Akram Musallam, tr. Sawad Hussain (Seagull Books) 

From a review by khulud khamis:

The result is simultaneously a novel that reflects some of the collective themes of the Palestinians — the collective loss, absence, and memory in this case — as well as a novel that expands beyond these limits and opens up to meanings that are universal and can be related to by every reader.