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Aalim Akhtar and Bilal Tanweer jointly awarded the Jawad Memorial Prize for Urdu-English translation

The Jawad Memorial Prize for Urdu-English translation was instituted to honour the literary legacy of poet and scholar Ali Jawad Zaidi (1916-2004).

Written by Aditya Vaddepalli |
December 5, 2021 10:36:47 am
Jawad Memorial Prize for Urdu-English translation, Aalim Akhtar and Bilal Tanweer, indian express, indian express newsBilal Tanweer (left) and Aalim Akhtar (right)

This year’s Jawad Memorial Prize for Urdu-English translation has been given jointly to Aalim Akhtar’s translation of Hari Bol, written by Zakia Mashhadi, and Bilal Tanweer’s translation of Parasite (Keera), written by Bilal Hasan Minto.

The Jawad Memorial Prize for Urdu-English translation was instituted to honour the literary legacy of poet and scholar Ali Jawad Zaidi (1916-2004). People from across the world can apply with an unpublished translation into English of an (already published) Urdu short story or essay. All submissions are judged blind.

While there are no runner-ups, the jury — comprising authors M Asaduddin and Aakar Patel — had commendations for two translations. Nazia Akhtar’s translation of Chhottam Jaan, written by Zeenath Sajida, and Fathima M’s translation of Shadows (Saaye), written by Khalid Jawed.

In its comments, the jury called Akhtar’s translation of Hari Bol “lucid and accessible”. It remarked that the language was direct and the translation was close to the original text. “Mashhadi’s Hari Bol depicts life lived at a most basic level. The story examines the complexity of human relationships with an unsentimental, even pitiless gaze,” the jury noted.

Tanweer’s translation of Parasite was applauded by the jury for drawing both major characters with great skill, panache, and a clinical eye for detail. “The translation is free-flowing, an elegant rendering from the original,” it said. The jury mentioned that Manto’s Parasite is an unusual and enjoyable story, bordering on surreal. “It draws its strength from the portrayal of characters, which include a tapeworm,” it added.

Akhtar is a PhD scholar at the Center for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi. After pursuing a Bachelors’ degree at Delhi University’s Kirorimal College and a Masters’ degree at JNU, Akhtar has taught undergraduate students at JNU and at Zakir Hussain Delhi College, DU. As part of the translation studies course at his current centre, Aalim has translated over 25 micro-fictions by Manto, a play, Anarkali by Imtiaz Ali Taj, and some nazms by Jaun Elia. He has also reviewed Srikant Verma’s Relapse: A Novel, translated by Krishna Baldev Vaid, for The Book Review (Sept 2020).

Tanweer’s novel The Scatter Here Is Too Great won the Shakti Bhatt First Book Prize and was shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and the Chautauqua Prize (US). The novel was also translated into French (Editions Stock) and German (Carl Hanser Verlag). His translation of Muhammad Khalid Akhtar’s novel and stories, Love in Chakiwara and Other Misadventures, received the PEN Translation Fund Grant.

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