Arabic · Drama · Fiction · German · non-fiction · Russian · Teaching · Translation

Translate @ City

I’m honoured to be included in the star-studded line-up of tutors again at this year’s Translate at City, the annual translation summer school at City, University of London, from 26-30 June 2017.

Leading the Arabic workshop last year was one of most enjoyable and rewarding experiences of my career so far, and I’m proud to have seen our students from last year’s summer school go from strength to strength in their own translation careers.

As in previous years, there is a wonderful line-up of tutors and speakers, with workshops available for (would-be) translators into English from Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Swedish.

There are countless opportunities for networking with publishers and other industry professionals, and for Arabic > English translators there is, for the second year, a translation competition to win the opportunity to publish a short story with award-winning publisher Comma Press. Two of the translators from our Arabic group last year, Emre Bennett and Perween Richards, have gone on to publish short stories in translation with Comma Press, including in the fantastically successful anthology, Iraq +100: stories from a century after the invasion.

Translate in the City (as it was called until this year when the summer school was rebranded as Translate at City) has had positive feedback year on year and has helped countless emerging translators get their foot in the door of the publishing industry. In response to participants’ feedback, I’m delighted to announce that this year the Arabic group will be working closely with Jordanian author Hisham Bustani on one of his short stories, with a view to publishing the group’s collective translation, inshallah.

More information is available at

Hope to see you there!

German · non-fiction · Translation

Farewell to the Horse: The Final Century of Our Relationship

Farewell to the Horse is an engaging, brilliantly written and moving discussion of what horses once meant to us. Cities, farmland, entire industries were once shaped  as much by the needs of horses as humans. The intervention of horses was fundamental in countless historical events. They were sculpted, painted, cherished, admired; they were thrashed, abused and exposed to terrible  danger. From the Roman Empire to the Napoleonic Empire,  every world conqueror needed to be shown on a horse. Tolstoy once reckoned he had cumulatively spent some nine years of his life on horseback.

“Ulrich Raulff ’s book, a bestseller in  Germany, brilliantly translated by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp, is a superb monument to the endlessly various creature who has so often shared and shaped our fate.”

(from the inside cover)

Title: Farewell to the Horse: The Final Century of Our Relationship

Author: Ulrich Raulff

Translator: Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

Publisher: Allen Lane, published 25 May 2017 


*** Farewell to the Horse will be BBC Radio 4’s Book of the Week from 29 May! ***

‘This unusual book is a series of airy, winging essays that alight briefly on world history, art, literary criticism and historiography before leaping on to make new, often surprising connections. […] This is not the Pony Club Manual or a trot through the more familiar sights of equestrian art history; it’s Kafka, Aby Warburg, Tolstoy, psychoanalytic theory, Nietzsche and bleak monochrome photos in the style of Sebald. This epic enterprise is relieved by Raulff’s spare, vivid style and deep learning. He is as comfortable analysing the etymology of Pferd and Ross as he is discussing the Chicago School, Clint Eastwood and the Amazons, and he rarely loses his audience.’

Susanna Forrest in The Literary Review

‘A beautiful and thoughtful exploration of the role of the horse in creating our world… Farewell to the Horse is a grown-up, but also lyrical and creative, history book, and I very much enjoyed it.’

James Rebanks

‘In his conclusion you feel the deep underlying affection that drives his historical mission. “Anthropologists see the man, historians see the farmer, technologists see the plough and perhaps someone will even be interested in the harness,” Raulff laments, “whereas nobody feels responsible for the horse.” This refined and ambitious book corrects that tragic neglect.’

James McConnachie in The Sunday Times, 14 May 2017

‘Sex, violence and 6,000 years of horse power: Melanie Reid enjoys an elegy to the way horses have galloped through our culture’

Melanie Reid in The Times, 20 May 2017

‘As you pick up the reins of this books – trying to get a sense of what sort of ride it is to be – it becomes evident within three paragraphs that you have never read a book like it. […] Raulff’s ability to corral scattered equestrians in art, letters and life makes scintillating reading and his writerly pace is exhilarating – especially when he takes flight from his own starting gates.’

Kate Kellaway in The Observer, 21 May 2017

Fiction · German

Sacrifice – a German crime thriller

I’m reading a lot of crime fiction but this book stands out among them all. The narration is so rich that even when the novel is at is most gruesome I did not dare put it down. I just learned Hanna Winter has 5 other novels published in German and can’t wait until they are all translated as well!” Amazon review

“It will be interesting to see where this series goes. Lena shows great deal of potential as a character and I love the setting of Berlin. I was drawn to her and her side kick. This is definitely worth a read, if you are in the mood for a serial killer thriller. Amazon review

Title: Sacrifice

Author: Hanna Winter

Translator: Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

Publisher: Manilla Books (Bonnier Zaffre)

Publication date: e-book 30 June 2016, paperback 17 November 2016

Arabic · Fiction · Translation

Bottled up by Basma Abdel Aziz

‘I could wander aimlessly from one colleague’s office to another, stopping here and there for a chat, maybe a cup of coffee or a bite to eat. I’d sit back with a carefree yawn, my notebooks and files piled up in front fo me, gnawing on a pencil that splinters between my teeth. I wouldn’t bother with any correspondence or with responding to any queries, no matter how pressing. Instead I’d gaze on idly as the people wait, crushed by their exasperation. But why should I feel the need to do anything about it?’ Extract from Bottled Up, published in Index on Censorship magazine, September 2016

‘In a new short story, published here in English for the first time, a woman trapped in a glass bottle is able to see, but unable to influence, the world around her. By failing to resist, she views the women, who are concerned only with the superficial details of life, as complict in the regime. Her inspiration was a pivotal moment of understanding that “we have given away our transient victory to such a totalitarian authority and that we keep turning int he same vicious closed circle, without an end.”‘ Interview with Basma Abdel Aziz by Charlotte Bailey, in the same edition of Index on Censorship magazine, September 2016

Short story title: Bottled Up

Author: Basma Abdel Aziz

Translator: Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp

First published: The Unnamed: Does anonymity need to be defended? Index on Censorship, vol 45, issue 3, September 2016

Arabic · Fiction · Translation

Code Name: Butterfly

Code Name: Butterfly is a short YA novel by Palestinian author Ahlam Bsharat, beautifully rendered into English by award-winning translator Nancy N. Roberts, and published in May 2016 by new UK-based independent publishing house Neem Tree Press.

I was the copy editor and fell so deeply in love with it that I’ve wangled myself a new part-time freelance job as publicist for Neem Tree Press, doing social media and working to get this lovely book into the hands of students, teachers, librarians and YA lit reviewers. The twitter account is now live: @NeemTreePress. Please follow us and do get in touch if you review children’s books and would like a review copy.

Butterfly is a feisty little novel that gives readers a moving introduction to life in the West Bank and the Israel/Palestine conflict. Intended as a YA/teenage read, I personally think it will be just as gripping for adult readers. Told from the perspective of ‘Butterfly’, a Palestinian school girl in her early teens, beset with best friend troubles, family tensions and all the confusions of puberty, not to mention a looming and confusing political environment, it’s a moving coming of age story that also deals with conflict in a more universal way.

For an independent publisher, word of mouth makes a world of difference, so if you read it and like it, please leave an online review (e.g. on Goodreads) to encourage others to pick up this funny and charming little book!


‘A powerful short novel dealing with the age-old conflict between Israel & Palestine.’

Outside in World

‘A beautiful, astounding book that daringly, yet seamlessly blends the dreamy world of adolescence with the tough questions it brings. Code Name: Butterfly speaks with intelligence, wit and irony about the injustices and implications of occupation.’

Chairman, IBBY Palestine

‘We look out through the eyes of a 14 or 15-year-old girl who doesn’t know what to think about her eyebrows, much less the two-state solution. We, like her, must start over with new vocabulary. Indeed, if Butterfly has a superpower, it’s her mastery of the power of questions. …the book’s questions strip not just Butterfly of certainty but also the reader, making it a valuable read for a teen or adult.’

Marcia Lynx Qualey, The National and ArabLit blog

‘Full of humour … brave and honest … hands-down my favourite Arabic story for young adults.

Susanne Abou Ghaida at Kel Shahr Kteib blog (review of the Arabic original)

Arabic · Fiction · Translation

Tajdeed: Contemporary Arabic Stories in Translation

Long awaited, the Arabic short story special of The Common journal is now out!

‘The issue was co-edited by Jennifer Acker and Jordanian short-story writer Hisham Bustani, with an eye not just to bringing new Arabic literature into translation, but into joyous, sharp translation — with work by some of the best emerging Arabic-English translators. This collection is not for Arabists, but for English-language fictionophiles.’ (ArabLit blog)

The Common issue 11, entitled Tajdeed: Contemporary Arabic Fiction, features the work of 31 contributors from 15 Middle Eastern countries: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Translated for contemporary English-speaking audiences, the issue presents a diverse group of emerging and established literary stars.

The anthology is available to buy at You can also read several of the short stories online, including the one I translated – the surreal Minouche by Moroccan author Anis Arrafai – but I’d urge you to buy a copy of this stunning publication. One to treasure.

Arabic · Fiction · German · non-fiction · Russian · Translation

Shortlisted for an Arts Foundation fellowship 2016

My head is still reeling after attending one of the most exciting arts events I’ve ever been invited to. There were children’s theatre entrepreneurs, people who stage symphonies in unusual locations, innovative jewellery designers and the creator of the world’s first sustainable fabric made from pineapple leaves, Pinatex. A truly inspiring celebration of young people in the arts. And not only was I wined and fed with delicious canapés, I came home with a cheque for £1000, as a shortlisted candidate for the Arts Foundation 2016 fellowship in literary translation. I’m delighted that the fellowship was awarded to, IMHO, the most deserving of the 5 of us on the shortlist, the amazing Deborah Smith: scholar of Korean literature, award-winning translator and founder of the radical publishing house Tilted Axis Press. Thank you to the Arts Foundation and to Alexandra who nominated me.