2015 was, in short, too busy for blogging!
Late winter and early spring had me busy editing and revising my two book translations, both of which came out in July. The positive reviews of both Fadi Zaghmout’s The Bride of Amman and Samar Yazbek’s The Crossing (which I co-translated with Nashwa Gowanlock) have been amazing and truly deserved for these insightful books. I have to say those frantic weeks of responding to queries and checking the proofs were challenging, not least because my youngest son still wasn’t sleeping properly and frankly I was exhausted. But I still very much enjoyed working with the brilliant editors at both publishing houses, which represented the polar extremes of the industry – a major international publishing conglomerate and a tiny Hong Kong-based indie press.
April was busy: I gave my first Arabic literary translation workshop for Advanced Masters in Arabic students at Edinburgh University. Also that month, I was honoured to appear on a panel at the London Book Fair Children’s Hub, where we discussed inclusive and diverse books we had translated for Outside In World. It was wonderful to have been involved in the charity’s excellent Reading the Way initiative where they are actively promoting international books, many of which were recently highlighted in this lovely Guardian article: Disability inclusive books that should be available in English. And it put me in touch with Syrian author and illustrator Nadine Kaadan, with whom I have enjoyed collaborating on another story since. Fingers crossed 2016 will see one or more of her books published in English!
I started work in the spring on my biggest ever project, a 300+ page non-fiction Russian-language tome about historical comparative linguistics which I have been translating together with Ian Appleby. The focus on Turkic languages has been very educational, but in fact there is barely a language group across Europe and Central Asia that isn’t mentioned in some way, so it’s been a lot of fun for a linguist geek like me.
I vowed to myself in summer that I wouldn’t get distracted and take on anything else. Naturally I broke this promise when offered various small pieces of work I couldn’t resist: essays by Samar Yazbek which have been published in The Guardian and in the anthology Life is Elsewhere: Journeys Through World Literature (Pushkin Press/English PEN), a delightful short story by Anis Arafai for The Common, a chapter of The Daughter of Suslov by Habib Abdulrab Sarori (Banipal 52) and a bilingual Arabic-German interview in the Goethe Institut’s Art and Thought/Fikrun wa Fann magazine.
Autumn saw me swept off my feet organising the biggest event I have ever taken on (OK, maybe not bigger than my own wedding!): the UK launch tour of The Bride of Amman. Fadi and I had a whale of a time visiting 6 towns and cities and speaking at bookshops, an arts cafe, Oxford University and Eton College, with a behind-the-scenes tour of both Eton’s and the British Library’s Arabic manuscript collections thrown in for good measure. Sincere thanks to Brian Whitaker, who joined us in London and Brighton, and to all our hosts throughout the week. Fadi was much more organised than me afterwards and shared a great write-up on his blog, The Arab Observer. Such a joy to finally meet an author I’d been communicating with online for over a year and it was truly a meeting of minds.
Towards the end of the year, I did a little interpreting with GARAS (Gloucestershire Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers) – a charity that is doing some excellent work in our county. I’m very pleased that our town will be welcoming several Syrian families over the next few months and I hope they find a warm welcome here.
And just when I thought life was calming down a bit, two irresistible German book projects came along at once. I’ve been working on a German crime thriller, which has indeed been a thrill to translate, and as soon as that’s sent off I’ll be starting on a German book for Penguin Random House: Ulrich Raulff’s The Horses’ Last Century, a fascinating look at the cultural history of the horse. I’m especially pleased with the second one (Penguin!) as it came about after a bit of schmoozing at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, proving that it was not just idle fun and was completely justified to take most of the week off to attend every single Germany-themed event – and there were a lot this year!
The end of the year brought two more happy surprises. Firstly, I was shortlisted for the extremely generous Arts Foundation Literary Translation Fellowship, along with three amazing and talented translators whose work I admire – Deborah Smith, Rosalind Harvey and Sophie Hughes – making it a great honour to be mentioned alongside them.
And secondly, I was offered what is pretty much my dream job (aside from translating books): leading a workshop about translating books. In July 2016, I will be the Arabic literary translation tutor on the annual Translate in the City summer school at City University, London. I’ve attended the same course for Russian and have also twice participated in the BCLT summer school, which follows a similar format. The fact that I’ve done this kind of summer school 3 times is testament to how inspiring, nurturing and enjoyable it is to spend an intensive 5 days in the classroom with like-minded translators of the same language combination, so I hope we get a good turnout of (aspiring) Arabic literary translators in July.
Well, that was a rather me-centred take on 2015. To round off, I thought I’d mention my top 3 translated reads and top 3 tunes of the year, so you go away with something useful and not just me blathering on about myself. Enjoy – and happy new year!
Best TRANSLATED fiction I read in 2015 (not necessarily published then):
(There weren’t as many translated titles in my ‘read’ pile as I expected, which is perhaps because some friends and I started a book club in 2015 and I tried not to dominate our list with translated titles. I’m sure in 2016 I’ll sneak a few more in!)
And my top tunes for 2015:
Real Love – Clean Bandit & Jess Glynne
Ain’t Nobody (Loves Me Better) – Felix Jaehn ft. Jasmine Thompson
Easy Love – Sigala