No Arabic-language books made the 15-title longlist for the American Literary Translators Association’s 2014 National Translation Award (NTA). The sole Arab title was Habib Tengour’s Crossings, beautifully translated from the French by poet Marilyn Hacker:
This is the NTA’s sixteenth year, and it boasts of being the only US award for translated literary works that “includes a rigorous examination of the source text and its relation to the finished English work.”
To be eligible, the title must have been published in 2013, and the translator must be a US citizen or permanent resident. This leaves out the Best Translated Book Award-shortlisted Leg Over Leg (2013), trans. Humphrey Davies, which would otherwise have surely made the list.
This year’s finalist judges are, according to organizers, “Barbara Epler (Publisher, New Directions), Elaine Katzenberger (Publisher, City Lights) and Jessica Cohen (renowned translator from the Hebrew).” The winning translation will be announced at the ALTA conference mid-November; it will earn its translator $5,000.
As I have written previously, Crossings is in “a flawlessly tuned translation by Hacker [.]” I was particularly taken with the last poem:
“This Particular Tartar,” the last of the collection’s five poems, is a wild amalgam: poem, story, satire, fantasy, quasi-sociological, quasi-reportorial, quasi-historical document. The “Tartar” evokes rich imagery in Arab oral and written histories: The Tartars were the horde of “barbarians,” led by Hulagu Khan, who laid siege to thirteenth-century Baghdad. The “Tartars” are portrayed in numerous Arabic stories and poems, including Jurji Zaydan’s popular The Caliph’s Heirs.
And from the poem:
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