23rd Abu Dhabi International Book Fair24 - 29 April 2013
Kuwaiti writerSaud Alsanousi wins IPAF 2013
by Olivia Snaije
This year’s 2013 International Prize or Arabic Fiction (IPAF) went to 31-year-oldKuwaiti writer Saud Alsanousi or hisnovel, The Bamboo Stalk, which treats thesensitive issue o oreign workers in Arabcountries and more particularly, in the Gul region. It is the rst time the prize goes to aKuwaiti, and to such a young author.The other ve shortlisted authors wereserendipitously all rom dierent countries:Mohammed Hasan Alwan is rom SaudiArabia, Sinan Antoon rom Iraq, Jana FawazElhassan rom Lebanon, Ibrahim Issa romEgypt, and Hussein al-Wad rom Tunisia. TheIPAF, which is supported by the Booker PrizeFoundation in London, is in its 6th year o awards, although it is the rst year or thenew sponsor, the TCA Abu Dhabi, whichtook over rom the Emirates Foundationlast all. Each o the six shortlisted nalistsreceives $10,000, and a urther $50,000goes to the winner. This year will also be thelast or retiring chair o the board JonathanTaylor, who has been with the prize since itsinception. He will be replaced next year by Yasir Suleiman proessor o modern Arabiclanguage studies at Cambridge University.Selected rom a pool o 133 books that weresubmitted rom across the greater MiddleEast, Alsanousi’s book tells the story o young man who returns to Kuwait rom thePhilippines to discover what his ather’scountry is like. His mother had once beena maid or a Kuwaiti household and hadsecretly married the amily’s son, but onceshe became pregnant, he abandoned bothwie and baby, and they returned to thePhilippines. The title o the book reers toa bamboo stalk that is rootless, yet canbe replanted anywhere. Alsanousi said hehad wondered about the maids, the driversand cooks in Kuwait, “we do not know thecircumstances that make them leave their country and come to ours.”Alsanousi traveled to the Philippines toresearch what could have been the lie o his protagonist, José. Commenting thatthe novel was essentially speaking toKuwaitis, Alsanousi said that José was adevice to speak about this immigrant labor community, which is a universal story about“human pain and a search or identity.”His Lebanese publisher, Bachar Chebaro,o Arab Scientic Publishers, who had twobooks on the shortlist, said that a prizesuch as the IPAF was o inestimable helpin getting younger, unknown authors tobooksellers and the wider public.O the literary scene in the Gul, Alsanousisaid, “there is not as big a reader base inthis region compared to other regions o theworld. I hope my novel will have an impact.I there are serious readers there will beserious authors, at least we are trying.”
Meet the Winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction 2013 at 19:00 at theDiscussion Sofa
For the past two years, I have been ortunateenough to work on a new book series thataims to make classical Arabic texts accessibleto English-language readers. The series,known as the Library o Arabic Literature, hasset itsel the challenging goal o publishingkey works o pre-modern Arabic literature inbilingual editions, publishing the original textand its English translation on acing pages.Supported by New York University Abu Dhabi,LAL hopes to ensure that pre-modern Arabicwriting—in genres ranging rom poetry tolaw, religion, philosophy, science, history,and ction—will nd new readers across theglobe who would otherwise be unamiliar with this rich literary and intellectual heritage.General Editor Philip F. Kennedy, AssociateProessor at NYU-Abu Dhabi, heads an eight-member board composed o scholars o Arabic and Islamic studies, which selects thetexts we would like to see translated, pairsthem with translators, and gives the nalapproval beore publication.Most o these works have not been translatedinto English (or i they are, they are availableonly in partial, old-ashioned versions) andwe have spent the last two years working outsome ground rules on which texts we shouldpublish rst and how to approach them. Wealso quickly discovered the design pitallso parallel-text publishing, particularly whenthe English and Arabic texts run in dierentdirections. We took care to choose an eleganttypeace that allowed us to set the Arabicin a style more in keeping with traditionalArabic calligraphy than with the more rigid,horizontal ormat o contemporary Arabictypesetting.The hard work paid o, however, as wepublished our rst three books this pastwinter, starting with an all-English anthologyo poetry and prose,
Classical Arabic Literature: A Library of Arabic Literature Anthology
, selected and translated by theprominent Oxord Arabist Geert Jan vanGelder. The anthology includes poems bysome o the best-known Arabic poets andauthors rom the Arabic tradition (includingAbu Nuwas, al-Mutanabbi, al-Jahiz, andal-Mas’udi, or example), as well as a rangeo little-known gems such as a dialectpoem rom 15
-century Cairo lamentingthe death o an elephant in a canal, and agorgeous Yemeni lyrical sketch on a visit tothe hammam (“Thus the dirt o bodies andminds was eliminated and every heart eltelated. Adorned with the pearls o sweatthat dripped, into our bathrobes we slipped,and into the henna our hands and eetwere dipped.”) Our rst bilingual texts cameout, too:
The Epistle on Legal Theory
, byal-Sha’i, a oundational document o Islamicjurisprudence, and
A Treasury of Virtues
,a compilation o the sayings, sermons andteachings o Ali ibn Abi Talib, by Fatimid juristal-Qadi al-Quda’i. Four more titles are due tobe published this summer.It has been a steep learning curve or all o us, notably because we are tackling textsdeemed “untranslatable.” For that reason,many o our editorial discussions haverevolved around laying down series-widerules: can we insist that technical or culturalterms in Arabic be translated in a certainway? Or do we allow individual translatorsthe leeway to make their translation their own, even at the expense o consistencyacross the series? What is the best way totranslate archaic poetry coming out o avery dierent cultural and literary milieu intocomprehensible, lucid English? (And as withany poetry, is it still poetry ater it’s beentranslated?) And how do we translate theArabic genre o rhyming prose (saj’) withoutturning it into English doggerel? All o thosequestions are well worth tackling in and o themselves, but they are in the service o agreater goal or a translation series like this:ultimately, we want non-Arabic-speakingreaders to view these authors and their textsas part o their global cultural heritage, sothat the educated reader is as amiliar withthe names o Ibn al-Muqaa’ and al-Ma’arrias she is with Homer, Tolstoy and Conucius.
Philip F. Kennedy (General Editor) and Chip Rossetti (Managing Editor) will bediscussing this series in a presentationcalled “Introducing the Library of Arabic Literature,” this afternoon on theDiscussion Sofa, 17:30-18:30.
Introducingthe Libraryof ArabicLiterature inEnglish
by Chip Rossetti
Project seeks tofnd a globalreadership orArabic’s writtenheritage.