Stinging Fly magazine today announced that Anam Zafar has been awarded their inaugural “New Translator’s Bursary,” and that her selected translation of Najat Abed Alsamad’s work – along with her note about the process – is now available on their website.
Anam also read from her translations of Abed Alsamad’s In the Tenderness of War in a pitch video that ran during the 2021 BILA HUDOOD online literary festival.
Anam did her MA in Applied Translation Studies at the University of Leeds, and she translates from Arabic and French into English. She has been a 2021 ALTA Virtual Travel Fellow, a National Centre for Writing Emerging Translators Mentee, and a translator in residence. She volunteers for World Kid Lit and runs translation workshops in schools with the Stephen Spender Trust. She’s also co-guest-editing the Summer 2022 issue of ArabLit Quarterly.
According to the Stinging Fly announcement, the New Translator’s Bursary attracted 59 applications from new and emerging translators from around the world. Applications were assessed by the magazine’s first-ever translator in residence, Frank Wynne.
In a prepared statement, Wynne said of the process:
‘One of the many great pleasures of reading is spending time in the company of fellow translators. Reading the fifty-nine submissions for The Stinging Fly’s inaugural New Translator’s Bursary not only took me on a tour around the world at a time when I was sorely missing the opportunity to travel, it afforded me a glimpse into the minds of writers and their translators, an insight into how stories are carried from one language to another. I was thrilled by the breadth and range of the stories that were submitted, heartened to see multiple entries from languages that are sorely underrepresented in English – including many of the languages of the Indian subcontinent, together with Sorani Kurdish, various versions of Arabic. It was also moving to discover women’s voices and queer voices from many countries, all of them straining to be heard.
‘Whittling the entries down to a manageable shortlist was not easy, and the task of choosing a winner from among this handful was extremely difficult, since any one of them could have made a worthy winner. I allowed myself to be guided as much by the story and the voice as by the skill of the translation. In the end, I was won over by Anam Zafar’s delicate, nuanced translations of Najat Abed Alsamad brief, pellucid, poetic, and unsettling portraits from Syria. Each fleeting image made me long to read more, to know more… There is no higher praise for a writer and a translator.’
In her translator’s note, Anam writes of In The Tenderness of War:
That punch-in-the-gut feeling had to be kept in English. This meant that preserving the author’s striking dichotomy—the unsettling poetry in the descriptions of violence and trauma, alongside frank, absolutely un-flowery dialogue—was a priority. I was also intensely aware that these stories were a call to witness of something I hadn’t personally witnessed. I couldn’t claim to have ever experienced anything like these characters have, to ‘know how they feel’; I didn’t want to make assumptions in a story that wasn’t mine. And so I am extremely thankful for Najat Abed Alsamad’s patient explanations of context and word choices; for not only tolerating my endless questions but celebrating them, just as she has been a consistent cheerleader since the day I asked if I could translate this collection. Likewise, I got such benefit from Jenna Tang’s ‘Translating Trauma’ class, hosted online by Catapult, where I received a wealth of thoughtful advice from translators working on similar projects.