We were delighted to be involved with the Persian to English workshop focus at the International Literary Translation & Creative Writing Summer School 2018, delivered by the British Centre for Literary Translation in partnership with Writers’ Centre Norwich. A group of 7 literary translators were selected to work collectively with renowned editor and translator Sara Khalili on interpreting to English a chapter from Darkness, a novel-in-progress by Hossein Mortezaeian Abkenar. The consensus translation, was presented to the other groups on the final afternoon in the beautiful surroundings of Norwich Cathedral. The photograph below is the moment that the audience closed their eyes to listen to the extract, as the novel is set in darkness:
As well as engaging with literary translation workshops, all participants took part in two creative writing sessions, led by creative writing tutors from UEA, Iain Robinson and Paul Cooper.
The Summer School brings together writers and translators for an intensive, one-week, residential programme of hands-on translation and creative writing practice. For most language-specific workshops, groups work on a collaborative translation with the author in residence and workshop leader. For translators working from any other languages there are two multilingual workshops, one for poetry and one for prose – these are designed for translators working from any language into English. All workshops are designed to encourage collaboration and peer learning in a small group setting. During the week, the workshops are complemented by creative writing workshops and plenary sessions.
The Persian to English workshop has been made possible with the support of the British Institute for Persian Studies.
© Photography above by Anita Staff
Workshop leader – Sara Khalili
Sara Khalili is an editor and translator of contemporary Iranian literature. Her translations include Moon Brow and Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour, The Pomegranate Lady and Her Sons by Goli Taraghi, The Book of Fate by Parinoush Saniee, Kissing the Sword by Shahrnush Parsipur, and Rituals of Restlessness by Yaghoub Yadali. She has also translated several volumes of poetry by Forough Farrokhzad, Simin Behbahani, Siavash Kasraii, and Fereydoon Moshiri. Her short story translations have appeared in AGNI, The Kenyon Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review, EPOCH, GRANTA, Words Without Borders, The Literary Review, and PEN America, among others. Sara is a recipient of the PEN Translation Grant Award for her translation of a collection of short stories by Shahriar Mandanipour.
Author – Hossein Mortezaeian Abkenar
Hossein Mortezaeian Abkenar, born in 1966, studied dramatic arts at Tehran University, then taught creative writing at Art University and other independent institutions. He published his first work of fiction, a collection of short stories titled The Concert of Forbidden Tars, in 1999, followed by The French Perfume, which won the 2003 Yalda Award for the best collection of short stories. His first novel, Scorpion on the Steps of Andimeshk Train Station, or Blood’s Dripping From This Train, was published in 2006 to great acclaim. The novel received the Golshiri Award and the Mehregan Award for the best novel of the year, as well as the Vaav Award for the year’s most unique novel. scorpion has been translated and published in French, German, Arabic, Kurdish, etc. Abkenar has also written several screenplays, among them for the film No One Knows about Persian Cats, directed by Bahman Ghobadi and awarded the Special Jury Prize Ex-aequo in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. He received a scholarship from Harvard University in 2013–14 and moved to the US. Between 2014 to 2017 he has been a fellow at the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute at UNLV. Abkenar’s books are banned from sale and publication in Iran.
If I were to describe in two words the week I spent leading the Persian literary translation workshop, I would say, inspiring and exciting. Then I would pause and add, important. Persian literary arts are among those least present and represented in the West. I was, therefore, thrilled that enough support had been garnered to make the workshop possible. When I first received the applications of the seven participants, I wondered how a small group so diverse in background, age, interest, and experience would blend together enough to spend a week poring over a short story that they were to translate as a team. Even their objectives and motivations were different, as was their fluency in Persian. I had worried needlessly. Our shared enthusiasm and eagerness to experience and to learn were elements I had not taken into account. By noon the first day, it felt as though we had all been thoughtfully, painstakingly handpicked to create a diverse group of people, each equally complementing the team. Together we worked hard, of course occasionally laughed hard, and parted as friends who had contributed to what we each learned and took away from the week we spent together.” – Sarah Khalili
It was a tremendously successful workshop and a big step forward in our work to facilitate and promote dialogue and collaboration across an international author-translator community. I look forward to future collaborations!” – Dr Cecilia Rossi, Lecturer in Literature and Translation, and Postgraduate and Professional Liaison for the British Centre for Literary Translation, at the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, University of East Anglia.
This was my first attempt at literary translation, and the experience and process was just so amazing and eye-opening. It has seriously made me consider professional translation… There is such a need for this kind of work, and I hope we can continue to keep Persian as one of the workshops that repeat.” – Zahra Khosroshahi (Canadian student in the UK), Literary Translator in 2018 Persian-English Workshop
I enjoyed meeting translators from around the world and working on a specific text with all of its challenges. The creative writing workshops were useful in that I was able to continue to think like a creative writer — something that is more and more essential to the development of the translator’s craft.” – Bilal Hashmi (Canada), Literary Translator in 2018 Persian-English Workshop
The Persian summer school was amazing. There was finally a space for Persian literature and I have never seen that in my life despite going to UEA for three years. I understand it was difficult to put up the Persian workshop but the hard work was worth it. It was so rewarding and all participants for the workshop expressed their gratitude. I just want to say a massive thank you for the Persian workshop. Sara was amazing!!” – Wida Siddiqi (UK), Literary Translator in 2018 Persian-English Workshop
© Photography below by Anita Staff