[Jadaliyya co-editor Sinan Antoon wins the 2014 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation for The Corpse Washer. Here are excerpts from the press release]
The 2014 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation was awarded to Sinan Antoon, for his translation of his own novel The Corpse Washer, published by Yale University Press. It is the first time the award goes to a self-translated text.
Paula Haydar is highly commended for her translation of June Rain, by Jabbour Douaihy, published by Bloomsbury Qatar Publishing Foundation. The judging panel comprised literary translator and joint winner of the 2013 Prize Jonathan Wright, translator and writer Lulu Norman, broadcaster and writer Paul Blezard, and Banipal editor and trustee Samuel Shimon. They met in December 2014 to select the winning titles from 17 entries, under the chairmanship of Paula Johnson of the Society of Authors.
The Judges` Announcement:
for the translation of his novel The Corpse Washer
"A poetic and profound story that resonates with human pathos"
Heart-warming and horrifying, sad and sensuous in equal measure, The Corpse Washer is the moving story of Jawad, a young Iraqi whose family washes and prepares bodies for burial, and of the fracturing effects of war, occupation and civil strife—on Jawad, his family, his friends, and their country. The subject matter is often grim, as befits the tragedies that Iraq has suffered for over three decades, but the meticulous portrayal of the corpse-washing rituals, Jawad`s ambivalent feelings about his work and the other world of his nightly dreams, show a gentler, more human side to a world of violence and brutality.
Thoughtful, precise, and consistent in voice and mood, Sinan Antoon comes close, in this translation of his own novel, to the ideal in literary translation—the invisibility of the translator. His fluent and forthright language matches the style and rhythm of his own original Arabic and the unadorned, sometimes affectless tone reflects the hollowness of life as the onslaught of war brings an onslaught of bodies for the corpse washers of Baghdad. The novel ends with Jawad sitting under the pomegranate tree that grows from the water he uses to wash the corpses. A rich, profound insight into an Iraq we hear very little of, this is a story that resonates with human pathos and bears every hallmark of becoming a modern classic.
On being given news of the award, Yale University Press Director John Donatich said:
"We are very pleased to see Sinan Antoon win this prestigious and deserved award. The Corpse Washer is an uniquely powerful narrative of the damning effects of war on the aspirations of real human lives. The novel is also notable for having been translated into English by its author, a challenge wonderfully met. We hope the award will help bring the book to the attention of new readers who want a viscerally powerful portrait of life in contemporary Iraq."
As both translator and author of the novel, Sinan Antoon reacted to the news by saying: "Writing is never easy and when one writes about death and catastrophe the task becomes even more visceral. The joy of finishing this novel in its Arabic original was followed, as usual, by postpartum pain. I had lived in and with its characters for more than two years and was left bereft of their presence. Translating the novel was the only way to return and inhabit those beings and places once more and to relive their pain and pleasure. It was challenging on many a level, and masochistic at times, but it had its advantages as well. The author and the translator inhabited the same person and could communicate very well most of the time. The novel speaks another language and the text has an afterlife in new readers."
He added: "Translation is a vital act and is underappreciated, especially from languages of the Global South. It is an honour and a pleasure to be awarded this prestigious prize. Both author and translator are delighted."
The Corpse Washer is published by Yale University Press
UK edition: 9780300205640
International edition: ISBN 9780300190601
There were 17 entries for the 2014 Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, all novels:
The Mehlis Report by Rabee Jaber, trans. Kareem James Abu-Zeid (New Directions)
The Arch and the Butterfly by Mohammed Achaari, trans. Aida Bamia (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing)
Private Pleasures by Hamdy El-Gazzar, trans. Humphrey Davies (AUC Press)
Ben Barka Lane by Mahmoud Saeed, trans. Kay Heikkinen (Interlink Publishing Co.)
Other Lives by Iman Humaydan, trans. Michelle Hartman (Interlink Books)
The Corpse Washer by Sinan Antoon, trans. Sinan Antoon (Yale University Press)
June Rain by Jabbour Douaihy, trans. Paula Haydar (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing)
Throwing Sparks by Abdo Khal, trans. Maia Tabet and Michael K. Scott (Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing
That Smell by Sonallah Ibrahim, trans. Robyn Creswell (New Directions)
House of the Wolf by Ezzat El Kamhawi, trans. Nancy Roberts (AUC Press)
New Waw by Ibrahim al-Koni, trans. William M. Hutchins (University of Texas Press)
Moon and Henna Tree by Ahmed Toufiq, trans. Roger Allen (University of Texas Press)
The Bridges of Constantine by Ahlem Mosteghanemi, trans. Raphael Cohen (Bloomsbury)
Earth Weeps, Saturn Laughs by Abdulaziz al Farsi, trans. Nancy Roberts (AUC Press)
Gertrude by Hassan Najmi, trans. Roger Allen (Interlink Books)
Status Emo by Eslam Mosbah, trans. Raphael Cohen (AUC Press)
The Silence and the Roar by Nihad Sirees, trans. Max Weiss (Pushkin Press)
Tuesday 24 February
Sinan Antoon talks with Paul Blezard
6.30pm-9.00pm WATERSTONE’S PICCADILLY
203/206 Piccadilly, London W1J 9HD
with Reading and Q&A. Reception.
For more details, go to Waterstone`s Piccadilly webpage here
This is a free event, but please reserve your place by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday 25 February
The Award Ceremony of Translation Prizes from Arabic, French, German, Greek, Spanish, and Swedish
6.15pm for 6.30pm, Europe House,
32 Smith Square, London SW1P 3EU
Introduced by Paula Johnson, Prize Administrator, the Society of Authors
Prizes presented by Sir Peter Stothard, editor TLS, with readings by the winning translators followed by
Philip Hensher on “Wonderful Translations”
This is a free event, but please reserve your place by emailing email@example.com
The other 2014 literary translation prizes administered by The Society of Authors are for translation from German, French, Italian, and Spanish.
You can buy The Corpse Washer in the US by clicking here, and in the UK here.