Forthcoming 2022: Arabic Literature in English Translation

More than 30 Arabic literary works are set to be published in English translation in 2022. As in past years, the novel dominates. We found only one Arabic poetry collection to be published in English translation in 2022: You Can Be the Last Leaf, by Maya Abu al-Hayyat, translated by Fady Joudah, in addition to one poetry collection (Agitated Air: Poems After Ibn Arabi) that adapts and transcreates classic Arabic poems.

But contemporary novels aren’t the only works being translated: there are also memoirs, works of literary nonfiction, genre-expansive classics, and at least five short-story collections set for publication: by Hisham Bustani, Sadeq Naihoum, Mohamed Makhzangi, Malika Moustadraf, and Samira Azzam.

One shift is that, in 2022, teens can expect three Arabic novels for young readers in translation, by Sonia Nimr and Djamila Morani. This already makes it a record-breaking year for Arabic literature for young readers in English, of which there is vanishingly little.

Readers can expect several books that have been previously recognized by the International Prize for Arabic Fiction: 2022 will see a shortlisted and longlisted title by Jabbour Douaihy; the 2021 winner by Jalal Bargas; the 2017 winner by Mohamed Hassan Alwan; Amir Tag Elsir’s shortlisted Flowers in Flames.

While most books below are forthcoming from smaller publishers, 2022 will also see a few releases from big publishers. Unsurprisingly, these will come from authors whose works have already won awards in translation: Jokha al-Harthi (winner of the Man Booker International) and Khaled Khalifa (twice shortlisted for the National Book Award). Both have been Englished by their award-winning translators, Marilyn Booth and Leri Price.

While the works below were overwhelmingly published in the twenty-first century, there are also classics, including fresh translations of work from Jabra Ibrahim Jabra (Will Tamplin), the cult-classic Malika Moustadraf (Alice Guthrie), and Samira Azzam (Ranya Abdelrahman).

And while many translators’ names below will be familiar, there are also full-length literary debuts by Will Tamplin, Ranya Abdelrahman, Alice Guthrie, and Safa Elnaili.

There will certainly be many Arabic literary works published in translation in 2022 that are not on this list. But it’s a start:

January

The Monotonous Chaos of Existence, by Hisham Bustani, tr. maia tabet (Mason Jar Press)

From the publisher: “Clear-eyed personal/political storytelling that is exciting, askew, and challenging.”

*

Bread and Tea: The Story of a Man from Karak, by Ahmad Tarawneh, tr. Nesreen Akhtarkhavari (Michigan State University Press)

From the publisher: “With boldness, clarity, and an insider’s eye, Tarawneh addresses the root causes and circumstances that lead a desperate young Jordanian to be recruited into a terrorist organization, tempted by the lure of glory purported by a skillful, self-serving sheikh.”

*

Kalīlah and Dimnah, by Ibn al-Muqaffaʿ, edited by Michael Fishbein, translated by Michael Fishbein and James E. Montgomery (Library of Arabic Literature)

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.”

February

Blood Feast: The Complete Short Stories of Malika Moustadraf, by Malika Moustadraf, tr. Alice Guthrie (Feminist Press, Saqi Books)

This collection brings together exciting translations by cult-classic author Malika Moustadraf (1969–2006), one of “Morocco’s foremost writers of life on the margins.”

*

The Story of the Banned Book: Naguib Mahfouz’s Children of the Alley by Mohamed Shoair, tr. Humphrey Davies

Read a chapter: From ‘Children of the Alley: The Story of the Forbidden Novel’

*

Ibn Arabi’s Small Death, by Mohammed Hasan Alwan, tr. William Hutchins (University of Texas Press)

Winner of the 2017 International Prize for Arabic Fiction. From the publisher: “A sweeping and inventive work of historical fiction that chronicles the life of the great Sufi master and philosopher Ibn Arabi—known in the West as “Rumi’s teacher”—a poet and mystic who embraced love as his religion.”

*

Solitaire: A Novel, by Hassouna Mosbahi, tr. William Maynard Hutchins

From the publisher: “In Hassouna Mosbahi’s engrossing and keenly observed novel, he takes readers deep into one day in the life of Yunus, a Tunisian intellectual.”

March

The Men Who Swallowed the Sun : A NovelHamdi Abu Golayyel, tr. Humphrey Davies (Hoopoe)

From the publisher: “Abu Golayyel’s gritty tale of two men’s ill-conceived quest for a better life via the deserts of the Middle East and the cities of Europe is pure storytelling.”

*

Animals in Our Days, Mohamed Makhzangi, tr. Chip Rossetti (Syracuse University Press)

From the publisher: “An unflinching collection of short stories by acclaimed Egyptian author Mohamed Makhzangi, who has a keen and sensitive eye for the behavior of animals—especially homo sapiens.”

*

Thunderbird: Book One, by Sonia Nimr. tr. M Lynx Qualey (University of Texas Press)

From the publisher of this novel for young readers, 8+: “The Thunderbird trilogy is a fast-paced time-traveling fantasy adventure centered on Noor, a young orphaned Palestinian girl who starts in the present and must go back in time to get four magical bird feathers and save the world. Aided by a djinn cat and girls who look identical to Noor and who each have one of the bird’s powers, in this initial volume Noor begins her journey through different historical periods, striving to keep the wall between worlds intact.”

*

Love, Death, Fame: Poetry and Lore from the Emirati Oral Tradition by al-Māyidī ibn Ẓāhir, edited and translated by Marcel Kurpershoek (Library of Arabic Literature)

From the publisher: “Poems and tales of a literary forefather of the United Arab Emirates.”

*

The Book of Queens, by Joumana Haddad, tr. by the author (Interlink)

From the publisher: “A book of history, heritage, loyalty, religion, feminism, families, and the Armenian genocide.”

*

Among the Almond Trees, by Hussein Barghouti, tr. Ibrahim Muhawi (Seagull Books)

From the publisher: “A poetically written and bitterly sweet memoir about nature, death, life in Palestine, and the universal concept of home.”

*

Agitated Air: Poems After Ibn Arabi, by translator-poets Yasmine Seale and Robin Moger (Tenement Press)

The publisher writes: “Agitated Air is a correspondence in poems between Istanbul and Cape Town, following the wake of The Interpreter of Desires. Collaborating at a distance, Yasmine Seale and Robin Moger work in close counterpoint, making separate translations of each poem, exchanging them, then writing new poems in response to what they receive. The process continues until they are exhausted, and then a new chain begins. Translated and retranslated, these poems fray and eddy and, their themes of intimacy across distance made various, sing back and forth, circling and never landing.”

April

The Essence of Reality: A Defense of Philosophical Sufism by ʿAyn al-Quḍāt, edited and translated by Mohammed Rustom (Library of Arabic Literature)

From the publisher: “The Essence of Reality was written over the course of just three days in 514/1120, by a scholar who was just twenty-four. The text, like its author ʿAyn al-Quḍāt, is remarkable for many reasons, not least of which that it is in all likelihood the earliest philosophical exposition of mysticism in the Islamic intellectual tradition.”

*

Sons of the People: The Mamluk Trilogy, by Reem Bassiouney, tr. Roger Allen

From the publisher: “This monumental family saga offers a vivid portrait of Egypt’s Mamluk period, one that is at both sweeping in scope and intimate in detail.”

*

The Turban and the Hat, by Sonallah Ibrahim, tr. Bruce Fudge (Seagull Books)

From the publisher: “A novel of the invasion and occupation of Egypt by Napoleonic France as seen through the eyes of a young Egyptian.”

May

Bitter Orange Tree, by Jokha al-Harthi, tr. Marilyn Booth (Catapult, Simon & Schuster)

From the publisher: “From Man Booker International Prize–winning author Jokha Alharthi, Bitter Orange Tree is a profound exploration of social status, wealth, desire, and female agency. It presents a mosaic portrait of one young woman’s attempt to understand the roots she has grown from, and to envisage an adulthood in which her own power and happiness might find the freedom necessary to bear fruit and flourish.”

*

Cry in a Long Night, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, tr. Will Tamplin, (Darf)

From the publisher: “Cry in a Long Night opens with Amin Samaa, a young man, walking the length of his native city on a stormy night. He is on his way to the palace of his employer, the aristocratic heiress Inayat Yasser, who has employed him as a writer to work on a grand history of her Ottoman family. On his night journey across the city, Amin recalls his idyllic childhood in a nearby village, his father’s death when he was just ten years old, and his family’s move to the city’s poorest quarters.”

*

You Can Be the Last Leaf, Maya Abu al-Hayyat, tr. Fady Joudah (Milkweed)

Abu al-Hayyat’s poetry doesn’t turn away from sins, ugly secrets, or “videos of slaughtered children / and children who will be kidnapped / from their magical smiles tomorrow”[.] But she also insists on this laughter that is both a delight and a weapon, a source of knowledge and a force so powerful it can break her ribs and gash public decency. Read poems by Maya Abu al-Hayyat in Joudah’s translation at Asymptote, The Baffler, and ArabLit.

*

Mr N, by Najwa Barakat, tr. Luke Leafgren (And Other Stories)

From the publisher: “Modern-day Beirut is seen through the eyes of a failed writer, the eponymous Mister N. He has left his comfortable apartment and checked himself into a hotel – he thinks. Certainly, they take good care of him there. Meanwhile, on the streets below, a grim pageant: poverty, violence and fear.”

*

The Night Will Have Its Say, by Ibrahim al-Koni, tr. Nancy Roberts (Hoopoe)

From the publisher: “The year is 693 and a tense exchange, mediated by an interpreter, takes place between Berber warrior queen al-Kahina and an emissary from the Umayyad General Hassan Ibn Numan. Her predecessor had been captured and killed by the Umayyad forces some years earlier, but she will go on to defeat Ibn Numan’s forces.”

*

Flowers in Flames, by Amir Tag Elsir, tr Raphael Cohen (Darf)

“I smelled the flowers in that bunch with a passion. I smelled them flower by flower, jasmine, carnations, and Damask roses. Again and again I smelled them as though in search of the distinctive sweat of the person who had sent them that might have lingered.” (Read an excerpt.)

June

Out of Time: The Collected Stories of Samira Azzam, by Samira Azzam, tr. Ranya Abdel Rahman (ALQ Books)

A collection of short stories by the great Samira Azzam, one of Palestine’s most brilliant short-story writers, in a vibrant translation by translator Ranya Abdel Rahman.

August

No One Prayed Over Their Graves, by Khaled Khalifa, tr. Leri Price (Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux)

From National Book Award finalist Khaled Khalifa, the story of two close friends whose lives are irrevocably changed when they survive a 1907 flood that devastates their village near Aleppo.

*

King of India, by Jabbour Douaihy, tr. Paula Haydar (Interlink)

From the publisher: “This absorbing novel tells the story of Zakaria’s murder, intersected with fables of gold, sibling strife, the love of French women, the fake promise of revolution, and sectarian enmities which have been flaring up from time to time in Lebanon for the last 150 years.”

*

The Finest Thief in the Kingdom, by Sadeq Naihoum, tr Safa Elnaili (Darf)

From the publisher: “The collection’s title, Min Qisas Alatfal, literally means Children’s Tales, however these stories are far from your average bedtime read. They are socio-political tales told from a satirical and critical perspective. Naihoum writes about his native Libya, bringing to life a wonderful tableau of characters from Sultans and Faqihs to dervishes, thieves, and beggars. His writing sheds light on the dark corners of power and religion, social injustice and racism.”

Fall & Winter 2022

What You Left Behind by Bushra Al-Maqtari, tr. Sawad Hussain (Fitzcarraldo, September)

Eddo’s Souls by Stella Gaitano, tr. Sawad Hussain (Dedalus Books)

The Djinn’s Apple by Djamila Morani, tr. Sawad Hussain (Neem Tree)

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

The Bookseller’s Notebooks by Jalal Barjas, tr. Paul G. Starkey (Interlink)

The Disappearance of Mr Nobody, by Ahmed Taibaoui, tr. Jonathan Wright (Hoopoe)

Suleiman’s Ring by Sherif M. Meleka, tr. Raymond Stock (Hoopoe)

Thunderbird: Book Two, by Sonia Nimr. tr. M Lynx Qualey (University of Texas Press)

Also notable

Kurdistan + 100, Edited by Orsola Casagrande & Mustafa Gundogdu (Comma Press)

The first anthology of Kurdish science fiction ever collected and published in the UK, we have invited authors from all parts of ‘Kurdistan’ and the diaspora to write specially commissioned stories set in their own versions of the future.

Exodus of the Storks, by Walid Nabhan, translated from the Maltese by Albert Gatt (Peter Owen Publishers)

Walid Nabhan is already a literary star in Malta, winner of the European Union Prize for Literature and the Maltese National Book Prize for his acclaimed novel Exodus of the Storks. Born in Amman, Jordan, Walid’s family originated in a small village in the outskirts of Hebron. He arrived in Malta in 1990 where he studied laboratory technology, before turning to writing.

Chaos, Crossing and Other Poems by Olivia Elias, translated from the French by Kareem James Abu-Zeid. (World Poetry Books)

Please add other titles that should be on this list in the comments or email info@arablit.org.

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