Image by Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

Last week, English PEN announced 19 winners of the PEN Translates Award. The winners came from fifteen countries with works in 13 different languages.

With support from English PEN and Arts Council England, the award funds up to 75% of translation costs for selected projects. The PEN Translates award encourages publishers in the UK to expand the bibliodiversity of works that they publish.

According to an article by ArabLit, Stella Gaitano’s Eddo’s Souls is the first South Sudanese novel to win the award. The novel will be translated from Arabic to English by Sawad Hussain and published by Dedalus Books in the coming year.

Eddo’s Souls is a historical novel about a family’s survival during the coups and counter-coups in the seventies and eighties of what is now South Sudan. It is the latest addition to Gaitano’s literary corpus on the meaning of homeland for the South Sudanese.

Stella Gaitano is unique in her decision to write in a combination of classical Arabic, colloquial Sudanese Arabic, and Juba Arabic even though South Sudan has embraced English as its official language.

In a 2015 interview with the New York Times, Gaitano explains:

“I love the Arabic language…I am like writers who write in a language other than their own; I am no different.”

“Language for me is the soul of the text,” she said. “I love the Arabic language, and I adore writing in it. It is the linguistic mold that I want to fill my personal stories and culture in, distinguished from that of Arabs.”

Other works by Stella Gaitano inlcude Homecoming: Short Stories (2015), Withered Flowers: Short Stories (2018) and The Return (2018).

Whether in English or Arabic, we look forward to reading what she has in store for us next. Congratulations to Stella Gaitano!