Coming to America: Translating Arabic Fiction in the Age of Global Liberation
Join Comparative Literature as we welcome Nancy Roberts, free-lance Arabic-to-English translator and editor on November 11th, 2021 @ 4:30pm in room 4310 of the Modern Languages Building. This event will be held IN PERSON ONLY.

Translators of literary works perform numerous functions simultaneously in relation to both a written work and its author. These functions include the linguistic, the cultural, the socio-political, and the personal. Varied though they are, these functions might be summed up in the words “partner” and “mouthpiece.” After a brief detour into how her life trajectory led her to the field of Arabic-English translation, Nancy Roberts will relate her attempts to serve as “partner” and “mouthpiece” in the process of translating works originating in Palestine (Ibrahim Nasrallah’s Time of White Horses [زمن الخيول البيضاء], Lanterns of the King of Galilee [قناديل ملك الجليل] and Gaza Weddings [أعراس آمنة], and Ahlam Bsharat’s Codename: Butterfly [اسمي الحركي فراشة]) and Libya (Najwa Bin Shatwan’s, The Slave Yards [زرايب العبيد], and Ibrahim al-Koni’s The Night Will Have Its Say [كلمة الليل في حق النهار]).

Nancy Roberts is a free-lance Arabic-to-English translator and editor with experience in the areas of modern Arabic literature, politics, and education; international development; Arab women’s economic and political empowerment; Islamic jurisprudence and theology; Islamist thought and movements; and interreligious dialogue. Literary translations include works by Ghada Samman, Ahlem Mostaghanemi, Naguib Mahjouz, Ibrahim Nasrallah, Ibrahim al-Koni, Salman al-Farsi, Laila Al Johani, and Haji Jabir, among others. Her translation of Ghada Samman’s Beirut ’75 won the 1994 Arkansas Arabic Translation Award; her rendition of Salwa Bakr's The Man From Bashmour (Cairo: AUC Press, 2007) was awarded a commendation in the 2008 Saif Ghobash-Banipal Prize for Translation, while her English translations of Ibrahim Nasrallah’s Gaza Weddings (Cairo: Hoopoe Press, 2017), Lanterns of the King of Galilee (AUC Press, 2015) and Time of White Horses (Cairo: Hoopoe Reprint, 2016) won her the 2018 Sheikh Hamad Prize for Translation and International Understanding. She is based in Wheaton, Illinois.

Interested in a copy of Nancy's translation of The Slave Yards? Fill out the questionnaire below to request one on a first-come-first-serve basis.

About The Slave Yards:
Set in late nineteenth-century Benghazi, Najwa Bin Shatwan’s powerful novel tells the story of Atiqa, the daughter of a slave woman and her white master. We meet Atiqa as a grown woman happily married with two children and working. When her cousin Ali unexpectedly enters her life, Atiqa learns the true identity of her parents, both long deceased, and slowly builds a friendship with Ali as they share stories of their past.

We learn of Atiqa’s childhood, growing up in the “slave yards,” a makeshift encampment on the outskirts of Benghazi for Black Africans who were brought to Libya as slaves. Ali narrates the tragic life of Atiqa’s mother, Tawida, a black woman enslaved to a wealthy merchant family who finds herself the object of her master’s desires. Though such unions were common in slave-holding societies, their relationship intensifies as both come to care deeply for each other and share a bond that endures throughout their lives.

Shortlisted for the 2017 International Prize for Arabic Fiction, Bin Shatwan’s unforgettable novel offers a window into a dark chapter of Libyan history and illuminates the lives of women with great pathos and humanity.

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