Arabic Literature Tour

Shahad Al Rawi & translator Luke Leafgren at Amherst College in 2019.

In fall 2019, the Roth Endowment collaborated with the UK’s Booker Prize Foundation to co-sponsor a program that embodies how translation puts international and cross-cultural exchange into action: the US tour of  a prize-winning Arabic-language author and his/er translator. The result was so successful that our board has decided to co-sponsor the program on a regular basis.

Shahad Al Rawi, the Iraqi author of The Baghdad Clock, and her translator, Luke Leafgren, toured colleges and universities in the northeastern U.S. Here they are pictured at Amherst College, where they read from the novel in both Arabic and English and discussed their experiences with writing and translation.

The Baghdad Clock won the Edinburgh First Book Award and was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction. The story begins in 1991: Two young girls meet and become best friends in a Baghdad bomb shelter, where they have taken refuge from Allied aerial attacks. They share their hopes and dreams, interwoven with fantasy and illusion. A stranger arrives from the mysterious future of the city bearing prophecies, causing families to flee the city en masse, leaving it empty. When a third girl joins them, the friends begin to write a secret history of their neighborhood to save it from oblivion.