Poetry by Najwan Darwish, Dhat Al-Himma Epic Make 2022 National Translation Awards Longlists

September 2, 2022 — Yesterday evening, the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) announced the longlists for the 2022 National Translation Awards (NTA) in Poetry and Prose. Two works translated from Arabic made the lists: excepts from the classic Dhat- al-Himma epic in Melanie Magidow’s translation, titled The Tale of Princess Fatima, Warrior Woman: The Arabic Epic of Dhat Al-Himma, and Najwan Darwish’s poetry collection Exhausted on the Cross, translated by Kareem James Abu-Zeid.

The prose longlist was fourteen books long, while the poetry longlist featured seven titles.

This year’s prose judges are Suzanne Jill Levine, Arunava Sinha, and Annie Tucker. This year’s judges for poetry are Hélène Cardona, Boris Dralyuk, and Archana Venkatesan.

This isn’t the first time ALTA has recognized the Abu-Zeid/Darwish partnership: Abu-Zeid’s translation of Darwish’s Nothing More to Lose was also on the prize’s 2015 longlist. Judges said of this collection: “Exhausted on the Cross, Najwan Darwish’s second volume of poetry, is poignant, raw, unflinching, and deeply humane, infusing the sorrow and suffering of occupation and the human condition with a startling lyricism. Kareem James Abu-Zeid’s unforgettable translation in its stark, clean, yet melodic register, invites us into the complexity of Darwish’s poetry, the suppleness of his Arabic, and the uncompromising vision of resistance in the face of oppression that beats at the heart of this marvelous book.”

And of Magidow’s translation of Dhat Al-Himma, judges said, “The longest extant medieval Arabic epic, and the only one named for a woman, tells of Fatima, ‘She of Noble Ambition.’ Captured during a raid and raised in servitude, this adept strategist and fierce fighter nevertheless resists marriage and rises to lead armies across Arabian borderlands with her dark-skinned son. Melanie Magidow’s work here marks a significant achievement in not only translation but scholarship, curation, and adaptation; in bringing this notable but heretofore lesser-known epic forward, she has highlighted the tale’s prescience to major contemporary conversations on race, gender, and sexual violence, and secured a spot for this heroine in the canon of women warriors.”

The winning translators will receive a $2,500 cash prize each. The awards will be announced at ALTA’s annual awards ceremony, which in 2022 will be held virtually on October 6, 2022 on ALTA’s Eventbrite page.

Also read:

Najwan Darwish and the Politics/Poetics of Translating Exhaustion

The full longlists and comments from the judges:

On the ALTA website