New ‘PEN Translates’ Grants to Lebanese Comix, Sudanese Memoir, More

JANUARY 31, 2023 — Fifteen books from 10 languages, including Arabic, have won the latest round of English PEN’s flagship translation awards. According to PEN, they include novels, short story collections, crime, poetry, an illustrated memoir by Lebanese artist-author Lena Merhej (to be translated by Nadiyah Abdullatif and Anam Zafar), a graphic novel by Lebanese artist-author Lamia Ziadé (to be translated by Emma Ramadan), and what they’re calling the first memoir by a Sudanese woman to be translated from Arabic to English: Ishraga Mustafa’s Woman of the Rivers, to be translated by Sawad Hussain.

Books are selected for the awards on the basis of “outstanding literary quality, the strength of the publishing project, and their contribution to UK bibliodiversity.”

So Mayer, Co-chair of the English PEN Translation Advisory Group, said of the winners in a prepared statement:

This PEN Translates round is a brilliant reflection of the breadth of UK publishing in translation, showcasing a graphic novel memoir from Lebanon, cosy crime fiction from Mali, feminist activism from Sudan, animal and workers’ rights fiction from Spain and Brazil, and feminist cli-fi from Uruguay. Awarding 15 titles across ten languages, it particularly highlights the work of small publishers investing in books in still-underrepresented languages such as Thai, Hungarian and Belarusian. Alongside the award for a Belarusian prison memoir, there are awards for poetry by Yang Liang that could not be published in China, and for bold novels dealing with themes of gender and sexuality by two acclaimed Russian authors, as PEN continues its charter commitment to writers facing censorship worldwide.

The complete list of this round of awards:

Home by Andrea Tompa, translated from the Hungarian by Jozefina Komporaly (Istros Books). Country of origin: Hungary.

Cade la Terra by Carmen Pellegrino, translated from the Italian by Shaun Whiteside(Prototype Publishing). Country of origin: Italy.

Living Things by Munir Hachemi, translated from the Spanish by Julia Sanches(Fitzcarraldo Editions). Country of origin: Spain.

Venom by Saneh Sangsuk, translated from the Thai by Mui Poopoksakul (Peirene Press). Country of origin: Thailand.

The Gospel According To by Sergey Khazov-Cassia, translated from the Russian by Reuben Woolley (Polari Press). Country of origin: Russia.

Of Cattle and Men by Ana Paula Maia, translated from the Portuguese by Zoe Perry(Charco Press). Country of origin: Brazil.

Yoghurt and Jam (or how my mother became Lebanese) by Lena Merhej, translated from the Arabic by Nadiyah Abdullatif and Anam Zafar (Balestier Press). Country of origin: Lebanon.

Woman of the Rivers by Ishraga Mustafa, translated from the Arabic by Sawad Hussain(Dar Arab). Country of origin: Sudan.

Headless in Kita by Moussa Konaté, translated from the French by Susan Pickford(Dedalus Africa). Country of origin: Mali.

The Art of Memory by Mercedes Núñez Targa, translated from the Spanish by Nick Caistor and Faye Williams (Pluto Press). Country of origin: Spain.

A Tower Built Downwards by Yang Lian, translated from the Chinese by Brian Holton(Bloodaxe Books Ltd). Country of origin: China.

Pink Slime by Fernanda Trías, translated from the Spanish by Heather Cleary (Scribe UK). Country of origin: Uruguay.

The Incredible Events in Women’s Cell Number Three by Kira Yarmysh, translated from the Russian by Archibald Tait (Serpent’s Tail, an imprint of Profile Books Ltd). Country of origin: Russia.

My Port of Beirut by Lamia Ziadé, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan (Pluto Press). Country of origin: France.

Zekameron by Maxim Znak, translated from the Russian/Belarusian by Jim Dingley(Scotland Street Press). Country of origin: Belarus.