The NTA Countdown to ALTA43: The Old Woman and the River

The NTA Countdown to ALTA43: The Old Woman and the River

Join us as we count down to the ALTA43: In Between awards ceremony with the National Translation Award in Poetry and Prose longlisted titles! We will be featuring the titles in alphabetical order alongside blurbs penned by our judges for the National Translation Awards in Poetry and Prose. This year’s judges for prose are Amaia Gabantxo, Emmanuel D. Harris II, and William Maynard Hutchins. This year’s judges for poetry are Ilya Kaminsky, Lisa Katz, and Farid Matuk.

The awards ceremony will air on October 15, 2020 on ALTA’s Crowdcast page: you can register to attend the NTA in Prose announcement here, and the NTA in Poetry announcement here. Find the full list of longlisted titles here.

Today we’re shining the spotlight on NTA in Prose longlisted title The Old Woman and the River:

The Old Woman and the River
by Ismail Fahd Ismail
translated from the Arabic by Sophia Vasalou
(Interlink Books)

Um Qasem racks her brain . . . As . . . an important question weighs on her mind . . . “What will happen to our nine donkeys?”

As the recently deceased Kuwaiti author, who was born in Iraq, explains (whether factually or not) in his preface, one strip of farmland, his natal village, was spared from destruction by the Iran-Iraq war. He invents (or describes) a village woman whose dedication to her land and to her departed or deceased neighbors wins the hearts of the Iraqi soldiers bivouacked nearby and charged with defending the area. She thus saves her fertile village, aided and abetted by her donkey. The translator never allows the pathos of the story to turn to bathos in this gentle, heartfelt tale.