English translation of “Lean against This Late Hour” shortlisted for PEN America Literary Award

February 13, 2021 - 18:37

TEHRAN – An English translation of young Iranian writer Garous Abdolmalekian’s collection “Lean against This Late Hour” is among the finalists of the 2021 PEN America Literary Awards.

The book translated into English by Ahmad Nadalizadeh and Idra Novey has received the nomination in the Pen Award for Poetry in Translation category, the organizers have announced.

The English translation of “Lean against This Late Hour” was published by Penguin Books on April 14, 2020.

The New York Times Magazine has described the collection as “A vivid, mesmerizing portrait of life in the shadow of violence and loss, for readers of both English and Persian.”

The publisher has said, “The first selection of poems by renowned Iranian poet Garous Abdolmalekian to appear in English, this collection is a captivating, disorienting descent into the trauma of loss and its aftermath.”

“In spare lines, Abdolmalekian conjures surreal, cinematic images that pan wide as deftly as they narrow into intimate focus. Time is a thread come unspooled: pain arrives before the wound, and the dead wait for sunrise.

“Abdolmalekian resists definitive separations between cause and effect, life and death, or heaven and hell, and challenges our sense of what is fixed and what is unsettled and permeable. Though the speakers in these poems are witnesses to the deforming effects of grief and memory, they remain alive to curiosity, to the pleasure of companionship, and to other ways of being and seeing.

“‘Lean against This Late Hour’ illuminates the images we conjure in the face of abandonment and ruin, and finds them by turns frightening, bewildering, ethereal and defiant. This time, a disembodied voice commands, send us a prophet who only listens.”

A selection of works by Abdolmalekian was published in Arabic in Kuwait in 2020.

Asghar Alikarami is the translator of the collection “A Bridge That Doesn’t Lead Anybody to Home” released by Takween, a publishing house and bookshop in the country that has published works by world-renowned poets such as Rainer Maria Rilke, Anna Akhmatova, Sylvia Plath and Fernando Pessoa.

The other finalists of this category include “Raised by Wolves: Poems and Conversations” by Amang translated from the Chinese by Steve Bradbury, “Sense Violence” by Helena Boberg translated from the Swedish by Johannes Göransson, “Katabasis” by Lucia Estrada translated from the Spanish by Olivia Lott and “A New Orthography” by Serhiy Zhadan translated from the Ukrainian by John Hennessy and Ostap Kin.

The winner of this award gets $3,000. The judges are Daniel Borzutsky, Marissa Davis and Meg Matich.

Winners in various categories will be announced in a virtual ceremony on April 8, 2021.

The PEN America Literary Awards annually honor outstanding voices in literature across diverse genres, including fiction, poetry, drama, science and sports writing, essays, biography and children’s literature. PEN America confers more than 20 awards, fellowships, grants and prizes each year, presenting nearly $350,000 to writers and translators.

Photo: Front cover of “Lean against This Late Hour” by Iranian poet Garous Abdolmalekian.


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