NOTE: I was in error; The Confessions is just now being translated by the fabulous below-mentioned Kareem James Abu Zaid, who says he’s starting on it this week. Also for New Directions.
Over at The Guardian, authors give their favorites of 2012:
Aie, I should’ve gotten on that (for Arabic) before recent events. Anyhow! Translations are rare enough on this list — most are English-language books written originally in English, with a few translations from French and Italian – but Ahdaf Soueif always goes a bit further, and recommends books in Arabic that are not available in translation.
Two novels available only in Arabic. First, The Confessions by Rabee Jaber. Jaber won the 2012 International Prize for Arab Fiction for The Druze of Belgrade, but I was totally gripped by this early, slight novel, possibly the most humane and understated take that I’ve read on the Lebanese civil war.
Jaber is not currently available in English, although two of his books have been picked up by New Directions (thanks, Kareem James Abu Zaid!), and I feel that, once they reach readers, there will be a hunger for more.
Souief also recommends:
Habayeb is a Palestinian novelist who was born and raised in Kuwait, where she worked as a journalist until 1990; after that, she settled in Jordan. A chapter of When the Queen Falls Asleep was translated (by John Peate) and published in Banipal 44; you can read it online. I haven’t heard of anyone meaning to translate it.
Habayeb also contributed an essay on why she writes to the issue (trans. John Peate):
On every journey, humanity has fallen away from me. And on every journey too, my spirit has buckled under the burden of loss. Through writing, I have maybe lightened that burden a little, cast afflictions to one side, kept my sorrows at a distance, prevented myself from clinging onto them too long.