Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
Literary Translation - Shortlisted 2016
Ruth has been a freelance translator from Arabic since 2009 with a particular focus on contemporary Arabic fiction. She is also an English editor, has translated from German and Russian since 2003, and is an active promoter of foreign fiction in English. Her first translated novel, The Bride of Amman, was a controversial bestseller when first published in Arabic. Written by Fadi Zaghmout (Signal 8 Press 2015) the book examines sexuality and sexual discrimination in the lives of young Jordanians in the capital Amman. Ruth recently organised a week-long author and translator tour to promote the novel and bring a discussion of women’s rights and LGBT rights in the Middle East to six venues across the UK, including Oxford University, one school, one arts café and three bookshops.
Her most prominent work is The Crossing: My Journey to the Shattered Heart of Syria by Samar Yazbek (Rider Books, 2015), a co-translation with Nashwa Gowanlock. The Times Literary Supplement described it as ‘beautifully translated…with virtuosic prose’. Demonstrating her ongoing interest in the politics of the region, Ruth published excerpts of Mustafa Khalifa’s The Shell (Massachusetts Review, 2014), a harrowing account of life in a Syrian political prison which was banned and yet widely read in Syria. Ruth considers this one of her most significant translations and was glad to help find a publisher for the English edition, despite limited funding preventing her from translating the rest of the book.
Ruth also has a particular interest in children’s and young adult fiction and is the co-founder and creative director of Babel Babies, a company providing foreign languages education through music groups for young families. Ruth is herself the mother of two young book lovers and if she were to win the Fellowship she would pursue the translation of Arabic children’s fiction particularly from Lebanon, Palestine and Syria, alongside other politically significant translation commissions.