Winners of New Translation Prize: Global Humanities Initiative

In News by Dennis Abrams

‘A milestone of modern Indo-Muslim literature’ and ‘a pivotal figure in the literary culture of the Islamic world’ are to be translated, thanks to the prize.
Northwestern Global Humanities Initiative

Artwork from the Northwestern Buffett Institute for Global Studies’ Global Humanities Initiative page

By Dennis Abrams | @DennisAbrams2

Recognizing Underrepresented Works
The Global Humanities Initiative (GHI), in partnership with Northwestern University Press, has announced winners of its first Global Humanities Translation Prize, founded in the spring of 2016.

The US$5,000 prize is given for a translation-in-progress of a non-Western or scholarly text, and honors two winners this year:

  • Jason Grunebaum and Ulrike Stark (both from the University of Chicago), who will translate Manzoor Ahtesham’s The Tale of the Missing Man from modern Hindi; and
  • Carl Ernst (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), who will translate and annotate the classical Arabic poems of Persian mystic Mansur-al-Hallaj.

Northwestern University Press (NUP) is to publish both titles in trade editions during in spring 2018.

The goal of the prize is to promote translations that make the greatest contribution to literature and the humanities—recognizing underrepresented works in the process—and to draw attention to the importance of translating non-Western language texts.

The prize “brings renewed attention to the literature of Hindi—the second most-spoken language in the world.”Jason Grunebaum, Ulrike Stark

In a prepared statement, Grunebaum and Stark are quoted, saying, “Manzoor Ahtesham is a visionary storyteller known for his nuanced psychological portraits of Indian Muslims in post-colonial India.

“This prize means that his singular voice will be heard and studied in the US and beyond.

“The prize also brings renewed attention to the literature of Hindi—the second most-spoken language in the world—and to the rich modern literatures of South Asia.”

And Carl Ernst is quoted, saying, “For Middle Eastern languages, the [translation] situation is exacerbated by the fact that printing came late to the region, generally in the middle of the 19th century. This means that the vast majority of Arabic writings are still preserved in handwritten form. This immense cultural legacy is inaccessible except to those who have special training and access.”

“Printing came late to the region, generally in the middle of the 19th century. This means that the vast majority of Arabic writings are still preserved in handwritten form.”Carl Ernst

Announcement materials from Northwestern call Ahtesham’s novel “a milestone of modern Indo-Muslim literature that explores the fracturing of the Indo-Muslim psyche in the wake of the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan.”

And Al-Hallaj, executed for heresy in 922 CE, is termed by the announcement “a pivotal figure in the literary and mystical cultures of the Islamic world, and yet this will be the first comprehensive English edition of the poems attributed to Hallaj. Of the 118 poems translated by Ernst, half have never appeared in English before.”

Cofounded in 2015 by Laura Brueck, associate professor of Asian languages and cultures, and Rajeef Kinra, associate professor of history at Northwestern, the Global Humanities Initiative is supported jointly by the Buffett Institute and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.