When we think MENA literature we often don’t get past a handful of key North African and Middle East countries and authors that dominate the regional literary scene, so it’s especially exciting this year to see a novel from South Sudan take a PEN Translates Award, and against stiff global competition.

As so often, I defer to my go-to source for Arab literary news, ArabLit, and the walking encyclopedia of Arabic literature that is Marcia Lynx Qualey.

Stella Gaitano’s Eddo’s Souls, is set to be translated to English by Sawad Hussain, reports ArabLit.

For this round of awards, the English PEN committee chose books from fifteen countries and thirteen languages. The works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, short stories, and children’s literature.

Ros Schwartz, Co-chair of the English PEN Writers in Translation Committee, said in a prepared statement that the judges were “delighted at the outcome, which represents a very broad linguistic and geographical spread across diverse genres, as well as a good gender balance – with almost two thirds of the awarded books by women writers, and over half translated by women.”

Before looking at the full list of winners, two things to dwell on from this news.

First, that,

almost two thirds of the awarded books by women writers, and over half translated by women.

In a global publishing industry long dominated by men, that’s great to see.

But great too is that these and other awards are no longer being dominated by a handful of countries.

Per the list below, we have winners here from places as diverse as Guadeloupe, Croatia, Chile, Russia and Palestine, and per the headline of this item, for the first time from South Sudan.

South Sudan is one of the newest countries on the planet (2011), and still finding its cultural identity as it seeks to differentiate itself from Sudan, and is buffeted by the cultural influences of bordering neighbours Ethiopia, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya and Sudan itself.

The Arabic language is struggling against the official language English and the second official language being introduced as the new lingua franca, Swahili, and Arabic, once a joint-official language with English, was demoted, so it’s gratifying to see an Arabic text from South Sudan being acclaimed in this way.

Here’s the full list of winners, as per ArabLit:

•    The Divorce by César Aira, translated from the Spanish by Chris Andrews (And Other Stories, May 2021). Country: Argentina.
•    All Men Want to Know by Nina Bouraoui, translated from the French by Aneesa Abbas Higgins (Viking, August 2020). Country: France.
•    Waiting for the Waters to Rise by Maryse Condé, translated from the French by Richard Philcox (World Editions, April 2021). Country: Guadeloupe.
•    La Straniera by Claudia Durastanti, translated from the Italian by Elizabeth Harris (Fitzcarraldo Editions, April 2021). Country: Italy.
•    Eddo’s Souls by Stella Gaitano, translated from the Arabic by Sawad Hussain (Dedalus, June 2021). Country: South Sudan.
•    Puppets by Daniela Hodrová, translated from the Czech by Elena Sokol and Veronique Firkusny (Jantar Publishing, July 2020). Country: Czech Republic.
•    New Passengers by Tine Høeg, translated from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra (Lolli Editions, September 2020). Country: Denmark.
•    Me and the Robbersons by Siri Kolu, translated from the Finnish by Ruth Urbom (Stripes Publishing, March 2021). Country: Finland.
•    When We Cease to Understand the World by Benjamín Labatut, translated from the Spanish by Adrian Nathan West (Pushkin Press, September 2020). Country: Chile.
•    On the Nature of the Universe (Book 1) by Lucretius, translated from the Latin by Emma Gee (Arc Publications, June 2020). Country: Ancient Rome.
•    Our Daily Bread by Predrag Matvejević, translated from the Croatian by Christina Pribichevich-Zorić (Istros Books, July 2020). Country: Croatia.
•    Brown and Yellow by Paulo Scott, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn (And Other Stories, September 2021). Country: Brazil.
•    Songs by Ribka Sibhatu, translated from the Italian by André Nafis-Sahely (Poetry Translation Centre, July 2020). Country: Italy.
•    War of the Beasts and the Animals by Maria Stepanova, translated from the Russian by Sasha Dugdale (Bloodaxe, September 2020). Country: Russia.
•    Chinatown by Thuan, translated from the Vietnamese by Nguyen An Ly (Tilted Axis, November 2021). Country: France.
•    There’s No Such Thing as an Easy Job by Kikuko Tsumura, translated from the Japanese by Polly Barton (Bloomsbury, November 2020). Country: Japan.
•    A Decolonial Feminism by Françoise Vergès, translated from the French by Ashley J. Bohrer (Pluto Press, March 2021). Country: France
•    The Book of Ramallah (Comma Press, February 2021). Country: Palestine.
•    Accursed Poets: Dissident Poetry from Soviet Russia 1960-80, translated from the Russian by Anatoly Kudryavitsky (Smokestack, August 2020). Country: Soviet Union

Read more over at ArabLit.