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Works of Radical Imagination

Emma Ramadan wins PEN Translation Prize for "A Country for Dying" by Abdellah Taïa!

April 09

by Seven Stories Press

We're extremely proud to share the news that the PEN America Literary Award Committee has honored translator and bookseller Emma Ramadan with the 2021 PEN Translation Prize for her beautiful work on A Country for Dying by Abdellah Taïa!

From the judges’ citation: “The jury is delighted to celebrate Emma Ramadan’s translation of A Country for Dying by Abdellah Taïa, a Moroccan novelist writing in French. Ramadan deftly captures the polyphonic complexity of the original in its portrayal of two North African sex workers and an Iranian revolutionary: immigrants living in Paris with all their ghosts, loves, and longings. Ramadan renders each character’s quest for identity—trans, female, gay, black—with a sympathetic ear, beautifully translating the unsung voices emerging from the French colonial wreckage. The jury also congratulates Seven Stories Press for bringing this vital and important work to readers in English.”

“A pocketable, one-sitting read, Abdellah Taïa’s "A Country for Dying" is an engrossing transcontinental and transgenerational fable sweeping from coastal Morocco to northern France over the course of five decades. With terse, biting prose beautifully translated from French by Emma Ramadan, it is a startlingly topical and succinct examination of race, relocation, isolation, and identity.”
—Logan Webb, World Literature Today

An exquisite novel of North Africans in Paris by "one of the most original and necessary voices in world literature."

Paris, Summer 2010.

Zahira is 40 years old, Moroccan, a prostitute, traumatized by her father's suicide decades prior, and in love with a man who no longer loves her.

Zannouba, Zahira's friend and protege, formerly known as Aziz, prepares for gender confirmation surgery and reflects on the reoccuring trauma of loss, including the loss of her pre-transition male persona.

Mojtaba is a gay Iranian revolutionary who, having fled to Paris, seeks refuge with Zahira for the month of Ramadan.

Meanwhile, Allal, Zahira's first love back in Morocco, travels to Paris to find Zahira.

Through swirling, perpendicular narratives, A Country for Dying follows the inner lives of emigrants as they contend with the space between their dreams and their realities, a schism of a postcolonial world where, as Abdellah Taïa writes, "So many people find themselves in the same situation. It is our destiny: To pay with our bodies for other people's future."

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