On the Perpetually Strange 147-strong IMPAC Longlist, Only Arabic Novel is al-Aswany’s ‘Automobile Club’

Arabic Literature (in English)

Literary translators who work with English are generally happy for any and all attention to translated literature. So the IMPAC Prize — which asks librarians from predominantly Western and Australian libraries to nominate submissions, and presents an international-seeming very-long longlist — should be a boon to translating:

alaswanyAnd indeed, it’s hard to imagine anyone reading the 2010 winner — Gerbrand Bakker’s The Twin, translated from the Dutch by David Colmer — and being disappointed.

There are great books on 2016’s 147-title longlist, many of them translations. This year, there are an impressive 43 titles translated from world languages. Yet only three of those were translated from non-European languages: Alaa al-Aswany’s Automobile Club, translated by Russell Harris (Arabic); Orhan Pamuk’s A Strangeness in my Mind, translated by Ekin Oklap (Turkish); and the only true outlier: Vivek Shanbhag’s Ghachar Ghochar, translated by Srinath Perur (Kannada).

If this represents an Olympics of world literature, all Arab countries getting…

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