Livia Bergmeijer | 12 Mar 2014
Sinan Antoon, author and translator of The Corpse Washer and Hassan Blasim, author of The Iraqi Christ, have both made it to this year’s 15-title longlist for the IFFP, an award dedicated to both the original author and translator of the best translated work of contemporary fiction published in the UK over the previous year.
Sinan Antoon is a poet, novelist and translator and is the only self-translated author on this year’s longlist. His novel The Corpse Washer follows the protagonist, young Jawad, as he abandons his family occupation of corpse washing to pursue his passion in sculpture and fine art. After years of dictatorship under Saddam Hussein, the intolerable burden of economic sanctions and then the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, Jawad has no choice but to leave his passion behind and revert back to corpse washing and shrouding. Through the eyes of one character, the reader is carried through the recent decades of Iraq’s history to the underworld of Iraqi society, where the line between life and death is very much a blur, both physically and metaphorically.
This is Antoon’s first time on the list, but Jonathan Wright, translator of The Iraqi Christ, has appeared previously for his translation of Blasim’s acclaimed debut collection The Madman of Freedom Square. Blasim’s The Iraqi Christ is itself a collection of fourteen rather abstract tales, whose central shared theme is “the processing of trauma, or the impossibility of it.”
While a number of Arabic translations into English have been featured on the longlist in the past, none have yet made the shortlist, let alone grabbed the prize. With two highly acclaimed Arabic novels in translation making it to the 15-title longlist this year out of a record number of 126 titles from 30 original languages, 2014 certainly offers the opportunity for their unprecedented success.
Nonetheless, competition this year is rife, with a number of internationally known authors cutting the longlist, including Norwegian novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard, with his translator Don Bartlett, and Spanish writer Javier Marías with his multi-award-winning translator Margaret Jull Costa.
One of the panel’s judges, Natalie Haynes, has acknowledged and commended the diversity and dynamism in this year’s longlist:
This is a very strong list, reflecting both the enormous diversity of nationalities, themes and subjects which we received. It shows that there has never been more of an appetite for translated fiction in the UK, and from every corner of every populated continent. It ranges from the intellectual to the emotional via the political, and no-one could come away from reading these books without having a greater understanding of a complex world. In the face of so much bland globalisation, it’s both a relief and a delight to see world fiction remains as quirky and individual as ever.
The 2014 shortlist will be announced at the London Book Fair on April 8th and discussed at a panel event at the London Book Fair’s Literary Translation Centre on Tuesday April 8th. The winning author and translator will be awarded the £10,000 Prize at a ceremony in London on Thursday May 22nd, 2014.
The full Independent Foreign Fiction Prize 15-title long list:
Sinan Antoon The Corpse Washer (Arabic; translated by the author) Yale University Press
Hassan Blasim The Iraqi Christ (Arabic; trans. Jonathan Wright) Comma Press
Julia Franck Back to Back (German; trans. Anthea Bell) Harvill Secker
Sayed Kashua Exposure (Hebrew; trans. Mitch Ginsberg) Chatto & Windus
Hiromi Kawakami Strange Weather in Tokyo (Japanese; trans. Allison Markin Powell) Portobello Books
Karl Ove Knausgaard A Man in Love (Norwegian; trans. Don Bartlett) Harvill Secker
Andrej Longo Ten (Italian; trans. Howard Curtis) Harvill Secker
Ma Jian The Dark Road (Chinese; trans. Flora Drew) Chatto & Windus
Andreï Makine Brief Loves that Live Forever (French; trans. Geoffrey Strachan) MacLehose Press
Javier Marías The Infatuations (Spanish; trans. Margaret Jull Costa) Hamish Hamilton
Hubert Mingarelli A Meal in Winter (French; trans. Sam Taylor) Portobello Books
Yoko Ogawa Revenge (Japanese; trans. Stephen Snyder) Harvill Secker
Audur Ava Ólafsdóttir Butterflies in November (Icelandic; trans. Brian FitzGibbon) Pushkin Press
Jón Kalman Stefánsson The Sorrow of Angels (Icelandic; trans. Philip Roughton) MacLehose Press
Birgit Vanderbeke The Mussel Feast (German; trans. Jamie Bulloch) Peirene Press
Jamila El-Gizuli | 11 Mar 2014
Published late last month, the State Department report took note of the steps taken by the Emirati government to prevent human trafficking, raise awareness about sexual assault and violence against women, as well as coordinate efforts by police and social workers in cases of domestic abuse.
But the document also listed “citizens’ inability to change their government, limitations on citizens’ civil liberties and arbitrary arrests, incommunicado detentions and lengthy pretrial detentions,” as the three most significant human rights problems facing the federation of seven emirates.
In particular, the report noted there had been no updates about the fate of Ahmed al-Dakki (also known as Hassan al-Daqqi/Duqqi) or the al-Ummah organization, which al-Dakki founded in 2012 as the first political party in the UAE. UAE authorities had prohibited al-Ummah’s formation and the organization continues to be banned.
Criticizing the State Department for providing an “unbalanced picture of the human rights situation in the UAE,” the foreign ministry also lambasted the report for overlooking well documented evidence of the “extensive violent jihadist activities” of Ahmed al-Dakki/Hassan al-Diqqi, who identifies himself on Twitter as the al-Ummah Party’s secretary-general.
Furthermore, the ministry’s statement suggested the State Department “revise its report based on readily available public source information including U.S. media outlets and social media services as well as information recently published by the United States Department of the Treasury.”
This statement most likely alludes to reporting by the the Washington Post last year, in which al-Dakki appeared in a video with a member of the Saudi branch of al-Umma, Mohammad Saad al-Mufrih, urging Muslims to donate to Syrian fighters.
The statement also appears to refer to Abd al-Rahman bin ‘Umayr al-Nu’aymi, another member of the al-Ummah Party, who has been named a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) by the US Treasury Department for providing financial support to al-Qaida, the Somali al-Shabab, al-Qaida in Iraq, and Asbat al-Ansar in Lebanon.
The full text of the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs statement can be read here.