Shatila Stories now available in Arabic!

Shatila Stories sadly didn’t win the EBRD prize, although some excellent titles made it on to the shortlist and I am slowly making my way through them.

But the good news is that Shatila Stories is now available in Arabic! It’s not often that a book is translated back into the source language, but this publication is unique in every way! And all profits are donated to support refugees.

Get your copy here:

Shatila Stories makes EBRD Literature Prize Longlist!

Our collaborative novel, published by Peirene Press, has been selected as one of ten titles being considered for the EBRD prize, an award backed by the British Council.

I hadn’t realised that Shatila Stories isn’t eligble for any other translated literature awards because it was written by multiple writers. So here are all fingers and toes being crossed …

More on the Prize:

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the EBRD, is pleased to announce the launch of the EBRD Literature Prize 2019, in partnership with the British Council. The Prize will recognise the extraordinary richness and variety of cultures and history in the EBRD region – a region stretching across central and eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Western Balkans, Turkey, the southern and eastern Mediterranean and northern Africa.

The EBRD Literature Prize 2019 will be awarded to the year’s best work of literary fiction translated into English and originally written in any language of the EBRD’s 38 countries of operations and published by a UK publisher.

The Prize – now in its second year — is one of the few international literature prizes which recognises both author and translator. It highlights the importance of the writer in voicing the hopes, aspirations and challenges facing people across our regions. But just as importantly, the Prize acknowledges the talent and key role of the translator in making the stories from these countries accessible to the English-speaking public.

The first prize, worth €20,000, will be equally divided between the winning author and translator. Two runners-up and their translators will receive a prize of €1,000 each.

Our prestigious panel of independent judges for the EBRD Literature 2019 prize will be:

  • Rosie Goldsmith (Chair of the Judging Panel), BBC broadcaster and journalist; founder and chair of the European Literature Network.
  • Gabriel Gbadamosi, poet, playwright, novelist; former fellow for creative writing, Cambridge University.
  • Ted Hodgkinson, editor, critic, Senior Programmer for Literature and Spoken Word at Southbank Centre.
  • Samantha Schnee, translator and Founding Editor of Words Without Borders, dedicated to publishing the world’s best literature translated into English.

‘After Coffee’ finally sees its UK launch

It’s been in the making for more than three years, but the English translation of ‘After Coffee’ was finally launched and celebrated at SOAS univeristy in London on Monday January 14th, 2019.

Myself and author Abdelrashid Mahmoudi read excerpts of the novel, while Mahmoudi elaborated on the writing process, how much of Medhat’s story is autobiographical and how he continues to haunt him.

The months of toil on a translation are truly worth it when you hold that edition in your hands. And even more when you sell it! The book is now available to buy online and hopefully in bookstores too. (free worldwide delivery)

Our BFFs at also published an excerpt from the book:

And the following dialogue between the team behind the translation:

Chitchat on the Nile! today published a dialogue between the author of the newly-released translation, After Coffee, Abdelrashid Mahmoudi, myself (the translator) and Marcia Lynx Qualey (editor extraordinaire).

The three of us having strong connections to Egypt, this is a unique opportunity to hear more from the people behind the book. I was especially thrilled to actually ask my author and editor questions we don’t normally have the time to explore when we are in the thick of the work itself…

Comments welcome!

There’s also a shout out for the UK launch event at SOAS university on January 14th, which will take place from 7pm.

BookBlast 10 X 10 Tour

I was proud to have taken part in BookBlast’s tour, which featured discussions with 10 independent pulishers from around the UK and their authors and translators.

Meike Ziervogel of Peirene Press, hosted our October 4 discussion with myself and German > English translator and historian, Jamie Bulloch. I could rave about Meike, Jamie and Georgia (who runs BookBlast) for several posts, but I will save you the gushing and direct you to a link to the podcast recording of the talk instead! Highly recommended are the podcasts from the rest of this fantastic series of talks with some of Britain’s most fearless of indie publishers!



Time to write

It’s been a hectic couple of months, what with a house move, some stress-inducing travels with a toddler and a surge of literary events in my otherwise homebound life since becoming a mother. This month has seen me attending four events, which might not sound like much but, when you live out in the sticks, each event constitutes of around half a day of travel, meaning shuffling committments and juggling childcare arrangements.

I am certainly not complaining, however, as it’s also been an enriching and exciting month because of them! Earlier on this month, I met with Peirene editor Meike Ziervogel and fabulous German translator, Jamie Bulloch, to record a podcast for Bookblast’s 10X10 tour. Bookblast have been traveling around the country, drawing some fantastic indie publishers and some of their authors and translators out of their hiding places and into the limelight to the wonderful audiences that have turned up to hear them and engage in some lively conversations.×10-tour-full-listings/

I feel truly humbled by the literary endeavours of all those involved in these events and wish them all the best (& reams of cash) to keep on doing what they are doing and more.

I also had the inordinate pleasure of finally meeting celebrated Arabic to English translators, colleagues (& hopefully friends from afar now too?) Yasmine Seale and Robin Moger at a lecture they gave at SOAS university in London last week. Amongst other work, they read from their collaborative, experimental translations of of Ibn Arabi’s cycle of odes, The Interpreter of Desires. Their readings were mesmerizing and the ensuing discussion was intense. Now I want more! Let’s hope we see their poems in book form soon. In the meantime, you can read an extract recently-published in Tentacular magazine here:

And last, but by no means least, last night I was thrilled to read my poem, ‘Daybreak’ at the launch of Ambit 234 at the Tate Modern. The poem was a runner up in Ambit’s 2018 poetry competition, judged by the wonderful Malika Booker, who floored us with her own reading to kick off the programme.

There were readings from two other runners up and the three winners, as well as A.K. Blakemore; Arianna Reiche; Fred D’Aguiar; Tom Laichas and Al-Saddiq Al-Raddi. They also showcased the first UK screening of Ariane Loze’s film ‘Archipelago of me’. An immersive night of literature of the visual arts and a very special night for me personally.

Now I’m going to take a little hiatus from social events to hibernate, curl up in cosy cardigans and wrap myself in throws and hopefully, hopefully, write.

‘Shatila Stories’ & its writers


I’m so pleased there’s been a lot of interest in my latest translation, Shatila Stories (Peirene Press), a collaborative novel written by nine refugees who have lived or worked in Lebanon’s Shatila camp. The book is a unique project, amalgamating the collective work of aspiring writers and giving them the opportunity to tell their own stories.

The book launch was held at the Waterstones Gower branch in London during Refugee Week in June and was sold out! On the panel were publisher Meike Ziervogel, editor Suhir Helal, photographer Paul Roman and myself. Hearing my fellow panellists talk about their experience of actually being in the camp made me even more sorry I had not been involved in the project since its inception.

I had the chance to communicate directly with the authors but only after the book was published. Since power cuts are regular in the camp and internet access unreliable, when I was actually translating their work, I posed my technical queries to Meike and Suhir who were both very close to all of the stories. The pair had led last year’s creative writing workshop in Shatila and helped the writers develop their stories following the workshop. But when Middle East Eye expressed an interest in a feature article on the refugee authors, I began to speak with the writers individually via WhatsApp, which felt extremely surreal.

Suddenly, I could hear the background noise of the camp that permeates their building’s thin walls. We chatted as they walked along the camp’s narrow alleyways, stood on the balconies or elsewhere in their homes, all locations I had carefully imagined while translating their stories as their characters moved from one location to another.

Not all of the detail in the stories I translated ended up in the final novel, since some were excerpted and storylines blended in order to birth a consistent narrative. Family ties and character names were manipulated so that the plot would make sense and flow. But the result remains undeniably the voice of the writers, not that of a detached observer.

It was an honour to help bring their tales to light and even more of an honour to get to know them on a personal basis. For more background on some of the authors of Shatila Stories, you can read my feature on Middle East Eye:

To order a copy of Shatila Stories:

Join us on October 4 at Waterstones in Brighton, where we will be talking about the book as well as other publications by Peirene Press. The event is part of Bookblast’s 10 x10 TOUR, a national series of themed talks chaired by indie publishers:×10-tour-in-association-with-waterstones/

Reviews of Shatila Stories:
The Guardian:
The Economist:
Arab News: