The National Translation Award (NTA), given by the American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) at our conference, is the oldest prize for a work of literary translation. This year, the association was pleased to present the award in prose to translator William M. Hutchins for his stunning translation into English from the Arabic.
The New Waw: Saharan Oasis, by Ibrahim al-Koni, translated from the Arabic by William M. Hutchins (Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, 2014).
“William M. Hutchins’ translation of New Waw: Saharan Oasis masterfully channels the poetic rhythms of Ibrahim al-Koni’s tale of a group of Tuareg, struggling with their evolution from a nomadic tribe to a settled community and the tensions that inevitably arise. Legends, fables, prophecies and tribal laws, expressed in lyrical, metaphorical language, give a glimpse into the group’s traditions and the Tuareg mythical paradise oasis, Waw,” said NTA judges Jason Grunebaum, Anne Magnan-Park, and Pamela Carmell.
Hutchins’s best-known work is his translation of the Cairo Trilogy by Egyptian Nobel Prize-winner Naguib Mahfouz. This trio of novels is widely regarded as one of the finest works of fiction in Arabic literature, and Hutchins’ translation is the principal version available in English (published by Everyman’s Library among others). In addition, he has translated a variety of Arabic authors: Tawfiq al-Hakim, Ibrahim ‘Abd al-Qadir al-Mazini, Muhammad Salmawy, al-Jahiz, Nawal El-Saadawi, Muhammad Khudayyir,Ibrahim al-Koni, Fadhil Al-Azzawi, Hassan Nasr, and others. In 2005-2006, Hutchins received a US National Endowment for the Arts grant in literary translation. His translations have appeared in several issues of Banipal magazine. He has also written a number of original short stories that have been published in the journals Cold Mountain Review and Crucible.