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Two titles translated from Arabic and published by the UK’s Comma Press, one of the country’s leading independent presses, have won English PEN’s translation awards in what has been a record-breaking year for the international prize.

The titles are The Clock and the Guest by the Iraqi writer and film maker Hassan Blasim, who now lives in Finland, and the anthology Egypt + 100: Stories from a Century After the Revolution.

A total of 21 books from 18 countries and spanning 18 languages, won awards with PEN Translates selecting them on the basis of ‘outstanding literary quality, the strength of the publishing project, and their contribution to the diversity of books published in the UK’.

Will Forrester, translation and international manager at English PEN, said:  “It’s not by chance that we are awarding a record number of books in this round of PEN Translates. We received submissions from more publishers than ever, for an outstandingly diverse and ambitious set of titles – testament to the vitality of translated literature publishing.

These 21 books are significant works of literature, remarkable in their variety: vernacular magical realism from the border of Thailand and Laos, an illustrated travelogue, Italian gothic autofiction, poetry for children from Guatemala, and Egyptian speculative fiction represent just a quarter of the works supported. This is a thrilling set of books, and English PEN is thrilled to be helping them get to UK readers.”

So Mayer and Preti Taneja, co-chairs of the English PEN Translation Advisory Group, said: “With brilliant books from, among others, Guatemala, Mozambique, Thailand, and Albania, this PEN Translates round is a compelling snapshot of global literature. Including three books that pair women writers and translators, as well as bold queer writing from North Macedonia, Russia, and Chile. 

“This has been an extremely strong round, and our selections showcase UK publishers committed to taking risks and building communities. We’re particularly delighted to include illustrated books for younger and older readers, and welcome four emerging small presses as first-time awardees. The depth and range represented shows PEN Translates, and literature in translation in the UK, in an expansive mood, one we hope to continue.”

PEN Translates has now supported more than 300 books translated from over 90 languages, awarding more than £1m in grants.

The full list of winners is as follows:

The Summer You Weren’t There by Petar Adonovski, translated from the Macedonian by Christina E Kramer (Parthian Books). Country of origin: North Macedonia.

The Clock and the Guest by Hassan Blasim, translated from the Arabic by Jonathan Wright (Comma Press). Country of origin: Finland.

Magnification Forty by Tsvetanka Elenkova, translated from the Bulgarian by Jonathan Dunne (Shearsman Books). Country of origin: Bulgaria.

Me and the Robbersons: Bandit Karaoke by Siri Kolu, translated from the Finnish by Ruth Urbom (Little Tiger Press). Country of origin: Finland.

Exile by Phu Kradart, translated from the Isaan dialect of Thai by Ram Prasansak (Tilted Axis Press). Country of origin: Thailand.

The Memory of Air by Caroline Lamarche, translated from the French by Katherine Gregor (Héloïse Press). Country of origin: Belgium

Wild Desire by Pedro Lemebel, translated from the Spanish by Gwendolyn Harper (Pushkin Press). Country of origin: Chile.

Ravshan’s Real Stories by lya Leutin, translated from the Russian by Anna Aslanyan (Paper + Ink). Country of origin: Russia.

The Heart Sutra by Yan Lianke, translated from the Chinese by Carlos Rojas (Chatto & Windus). Country of origin: China.

Like a Prisoner: Stories of Endurance by Fatos Lubonja, translated from the Albanian by John Hodgson (Istros Books). Country of origin: Albania.

You, Bleeding Childhood by Michele Mari, translated from the Italian by Brian Robert Moore (And Other Stories). Country of origin: Italy.

Centroeuropa by Vicente Luis Mora translated from the Spanish by Rahul Bery (Peninsula Press). Country of origin: Spain.

Tchanaze by Carlos Paradona Rufino Roque, translated from the Portuguese by Sandra Tamale and Jethro Soutar (Dedalus Africa). Country of origin: Mozambique.

Star 111 by Lutz Seiler, translated from the German by Tess Lewis (And Other Stories). Country of origin: Germany.

Balam and Lluvia’s House by Julio Serrano Echeverría, translated from the Spanish by Lawrence Schimel (The Emma Press). Country of origin: Guatemala.

Brothers by Jackie Thomae, translated from the German by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp (DAS Editions). Country of origin: Germany.

Barcode by Krisztina Tóth, translated from the Hungarian by Peter Sherwood (Jantar Publishing). Country of origin: Hungary.

Retrospective by Juan Gabriel Vasquez translated from the Spanish by Anne McLean (MacLehose Press). Country of origin: Colombia.

My Very Great Arab Melancholy by Lamia Ziadé, translated from the French by Emma Ramadan (Pluto Press). Country of origin: France.

Egypt + 100: Stories from a Century After the Revolution, translated from the Arabic (Comma Press). Country of origin: Egypt.

Take Six: Six Balkan Women Writers, translated from the Macedonian, Slovenian, Bosnian, Croatian, and Montenegrin by Will Firth and Olivia Hellewell (Dedalus). Countries of origin: North Macedonia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia, and Montenegro.