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Senegal’s Boubacar Baris Diop and Morocco’s Abdellatif Laabi. Photos from Google.

Senegalese author Boubacar Baris Diop’s novel Doomi Golo: The Hidden Notebooks and Moroccan author Abdellatif Laabi’s poetry collection In Praise of Defeat are now finalists for the 2017 Best Translated Book Awards. The fifteen finalists—ten for prose and five for poetry—and their translators represent thirteen countries and nine languages.

In March, we had announced their longlisting alongside Egyptian author Basma Abdel Aziz’s novel The Queue.

Diop’s novel, the first ever to be translated from Wolof to English, is the story of a man who, after losing his son, finds himself in a desperate need to communicate to his grandson, whose whereabouts he is unaware of, through notebooks. Its translation from the Wolof was done by Vera Wulfing-Leckie and El Hadji Moustapha Diop. Below is its description on Amazon.

The first novel to be translated from Wolof to English, Doomi Golo: The Hidden Notebooks is a masterful work that conveys the story of Nguirane Faye and his attempts to communicate with his grandson before he dies. With a narrative structure that beautifully imitates the movements of a musical piece, Diop relates Faye’s trauma of losing his only son, Assane Tall, which is compounded by his grandson Badou’s migration to an unknown destination. While Faye feels certain that his grandson will return one day, he also is convinced that he will no longer be alive by then. Faye spends his days sitting under a mango tree in the courtyard of his home, reminiscing and observing his surroundings. He speaks to Badou through his seven notebooks, six of which are revealed to the reader, while the seventh, the “Book of Secrets,” is highly confidential and reserved for Badou’s eyes only. In the absence of letters from Badou, the notebooks form the only possible means of communication between the two, carrying within them tunes and repetitions that give this novel its unusual shape: loose and meandering on the one hand, coherent and tightly interwoven on the other. Translated by Vera Wülfing-Leckie and El Hadji Moustapha Diop.

Abdellatif Laabi’s In Praise of Defeat is his seventeenth poetry collection. As fiercely political as he is prolific, his work and activism earned him imprisonment and torture in the 1970s and ’80s in Morocco. Here is a description of his collection on Amazon.

One of the central writers and thinkers in contemporary Maghreb letters and banned by the Moroccan government, Abdellatif Laabi’s poetry is increasingly influential on the international scene and spans six decades of political and literary change, innovation, and struggle. Including a wide range of work, from piercing domestic love poetry to a fierce lyricism of social resistance informed by nearly a decade spent in prison for “crimes of opinion,” all of Laabi’s poetry is situated firmly against tyranny and for life–an almost mythic sense of spiritual and earthly joy emanates from this resistance through the darkness of political oppression. This selection of poetry has been masterfully rendered into English for the first time by Donald Nicholson-Smith and introduced by the eminent poet and critic Pierre Joris–the first in translation to be chosen by Laabi himself.

Here are the ten finalists.

Fiction:

  • Chronicle of the Murdered House by Lúcio Cardoso, translated from the Portuguese by Margaret Jull Costa and Robin Patterson (Brazil, Open Letter Books).
  • Among Strange Victims by Daniel Saldaña París, translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney (Mexico, Coffee House Press).
  • Eve Out of Her Ruins by Ananda Devi, translated from the French by Je rey Zuckerman (Mauritius, Deep Vellum).
  • Ladivine by Marie NDiaye, translated from the French by Jordan Stump (France, Knopf).
  • Doomi Golo by Boubacar Boris Diop, translated from the Wolof by Vera Wülfing-Leckie and El Hadji Moustapha Diop (Senegal, Michigan State University Press).
  • Oblivion by Sergei Lebedev, translated from the Russian by Antonina W. Bouis (Russia, New Vessel Press).
  • War and Turpentine by Stefan Hertmans, translated from the Dutch by David McKay (Belgium, Pantheon).
  • Umami by Laia Jufresa, translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes (Mexico, Oneworld).
  • Zama by Antonio di Benedetto, translated from the Spanish by Esther Allen (Argentina, New York Review Books).
  • Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya, translated from the Spanish by Jessica Powell (Dominican Republic, Mandel Vilar Press).

Poetry:

  • Berlin-Hamlet by Szilárd Burbly, translated from the Hungarian by Ottilie Mulzet (Hungary, New York Review Books).
  • Of Things by Michael Donhauser, translated from the German by Nick Ho and Andrew Joron (Austria, Burning Deck Press).
  • Cheer Up, Femme Fatale by Yideum Kim, translated from the Korean by Ji Yoon Lee, Don Mee Choi, and Johannes Göransson (South Korea, Action Books).
  • In Praise of Defeat by Abdellatif Laâbi, translated from the French by Donald Nicholson-Smith (Morocco, Archipelago Books).
  • Extracting the Stone of Madness by Alejandra Pizarnik, translated from the Spanish by Yvette Siegert (Argentina, New Directions).

The winners of the prose and poetry categories will be announced on May 4, 2017.

Congratulations to Boubacar Baris Diop and Abdellatif Laabi. We hope they take the two.

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About Otosirieze Obi-Young

View all posts by Otosirieze Obi-Young
Otosirieze Obi-Young was shortlisted for the 2016 Miles Morland Writing Scholarship. His short story, "You Sing of a Longing," was shortlisted for the 2016 Gerald Kraak Award. His first published story, “A Tenderer Blessing,” appears in Transition magazine and was nominated for a 2015 Pushcart Prize. His second story, "Mulumba," appears in The Threepenny Review and has been translated into the German. His essays appear in Interdisciplinary Academic Essays and Brittle Paper where he is Submissions Editor. He is the editor of the Art Naija series, a sequence of anthologies of writing and visual art which document aspects of Nigerian life. The first anthology, Enter Naija: The Book of Places, explores cities and marked Nigeria's 56th Independence anniversary. The second anthology, Work Naija: The Book of Vocations, explores professions and is forthcoming in June 2017. Otosirieze teaches English at a Nigerian university. When bored, he blogs popular culture at naijakulture.blogspot.com or just Googles Rihanna.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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