A Discussion on Translation From the Arab World

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What’s working best today in translation of Arabic literature? Presented by the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, a publisher and a translator weigh in with practical insights and observations.

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Join Us for an In-Depth Discussion
We invite you to a special discussion on Monday (September 28) from the Sheikh Zayed Book Award and us here at Publishing Perspectives.

In “Contemporary Dynamics in Translation from the Arab World” (click now to set a reminder), we’ll spend an hour talking with a publisher of translated content based in Toronto and a Cambridge-based translator who specializes in in Arabic-to-English literature.

Both have timely experiences to share about the contemporary marketplace–at a time when international current affairs could hardly make cross-cultural communication more important.

Our hourlong session at our YouTube page will start at:

  • 4:30 p.m. GST (Abu Dhabi)
  • 2:30 p.m. CEST (Rome)
  • 1:30 p.m. BST (London)
  • 1230 GMT
  • 8:30 a.m. ET (New York City)

And our guests will be the award-winning translator Sawad Hussain and the eclectic Canadian publisher Robert Morgan. They bring us the advantage of two experienced guests who can speak with precise insight about the realities on the ground.

Sawad Hussain and Robert Morgan

Sawad Hussain

Sawad Hussain is the winner of the 2019 ArabLit Short Story Prize and two English PEN Translates awards.

She co-teaches a workshop on translating Arabic comics at UK secondary schools via the collective Shadow Heroes—where “Superheroes are not afraid of translation.”

Hussain’s recent translations include the resistance novella by Sahar Khalifeh Passage to the Plaza (Seagull Books), which has been shortlisted for the 2020 Palestine Book Awards.

She’s also praised for her translation of Shahla Ujayu’s experimental short fiction collection A Bed for the King’s Daughter, which is scheduled for release in December from the University of Texas Press.

Hussain holds a masters’ degree in modern Arabic literature from the School of Oriental and African Studies.

She’s on the panel on Wednesday (September 30), as well, in the World Kid Lit Month program we’ve covered in our rights edition today.

Robert Morgan is the publisher of BookLand Press, a Canadian book publishing company focused, in part, on the multicultural diversity of the market. .

Robert Morgan

Morgan has accumulated more than 20 years of experience in his field, working as both a book publisher and publishing business consultant, and has accomplished various professional projects in North America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Morgan has also established a comprehensive translation program at BookLand Press, which includes the translation of six Governor General’s Award-winning books and five Trillium Book Award-winning titles.

One of Morgan’s most recent publishing projects, the Ardeth Neale translation of the Governor General’s award-winning poetry of Louis-Philippe Hébert, Mary the Life Saver, is to be released in a film adaptation in 2021.

Morgan’s company has acquired the translation rights to two of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award’s winning titles in children’s literature, which, of course, come with available funding support from the awards program:

  • I Dream of Being a Concrete Mixer, the 2019 winner, in French and English
  • Hatless, the 2017 winner, in French

Having the advantage of two such experienced guests who can engage on our talking points from their respective positions, we’ll be looking at:

  • Major—and sometimes subtle—pressure points that come to the fore in translated literature today, especially work from the Arab world
  • Realities of translating literature for young readers from Arabic into other languages
  • Particular issues that may be in play around the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic
  • The most effective drivers of success in today’s world market for translation and its publication
  • Interest levels outside the Arab world in work from the region and its many cultures
  • What role programs like the Sheikh Zayed Book Award may play in positioning so much good literature for the greatest reach
  • And some of the key dynamics rippling through so many cultures today–women in translation, for example, and authors writing in Arabic from the African continent, and publishers’ reliance at times on translators as their scouts for the best and most potentially viable content for a crowded market

One hopeful message Morgan has in a pre-event exchange: “We see a growing demand for Arabic literature from the North American market. More and more Canadians and Americans are interested in reading Arabic literature and learning more about Arabic language and culture.

“All of this drives our retail market, our library market, and our education market.”

And from Hussain, we’re already learning of an interesting graphic project she’d like to find a home for: “I’m currently pitching a Lebanese graphic novel which I’m very excited about, but still looking to find a press.”

There’s much more to come Monday in our conversation. Please join us then, free of charge, and let your colleagues know they’re welcome, as well.


More from Publishing Perspectives on the Sheikh Zayed Book Award is here, more on Arabic literature is here, and more on translation is here. More from us on publishing and book awards in the international industry is here. Publishing Perspectives is the media partner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award.

More from us on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here and at the CORONAVIRUS tab at the top of each page of our site.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for trade and indie authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald.

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