The 2020 Jawad Memorial Prize for Urdu-English Translation

The unanimous choice for the 2020 winner of the Jawad Memorial Prize for Urdu-English Translation is 'The Sea' by Khalida Hussain, translated by Haider Shahbaz.

Haider Shahbaz’s translation of Khalida Hussain's ‘Samundar’ was chosen primarily for the quality of translation and secondarily on account of what the story has to offer in its English rendering. The selection of the Urdu text, the urgency of its translation, its flow – all were praiseworthy. ‘The Sea’ succeeds in capturing the poignancy of the original text, communicating it to the reader so that she can feel the wind in her face, smell the fresh sea breeze, touch the gritty sand beneath her feet, and share in the pain of displacement that underpins Hussain’s short story. This is a difficult task for any writer, and especially for one who works between languages as disparate as English and Urdu in their tonal register and literary sensibility.

Both judges have added a note encouraging the winner to work towards a collection of Khalida Hussain’s stories in English translation.

The jury has not picked a runner-up for the prize. However, there is a special mention and jury commendation for 'Tiffin Carrier' by Muneera Surati, translated by the author herself.

We congratulate the winner as well as those who have received a recommendation from the jury. We encourage them to publish their work and hope that they will continue to bring Urdu literature into the lives of millions of new readers.

The Jury

This year’s jury comprised of Mehr Afshan Farooqi and Rakhshanda Jalil. All submissions were read blind, that is, the judges did not know who the translators were.

Mehr Afshan Farooqi grew up in Allahabad, India. A multiple gold medalist from Allahabad University, Farooqi is currently Associate Professor of Urdu and South Asian Literature at the University of Virginia.  Her research publications address complex issues of Urdu literary culture particularly in the context of modernity.  She is interested in bilingualism and how it impacts creativity. Farooqi is also a well-known translator, anthologist and columnist. She is the editor of the pioneering two-volume work, The Oxford India Anthology of Modern Urdu Literature (2008).  More recently she has published the acclaimed monograph, The Postcolonial Mind, Urdu Culture, Islam and Modernity in Muhammad Hasan Askari (2013). Farooqi writes a featured column on Urdu literature past and present in the Dawn. She has recently finished a book on Ghalib titled: Ghalib: A Wilderness at my Doorstep. The book will be published by Allen Lane/Penguin Random House in 2020. 

Rakhshanda Jalil is an award-winning translator, writer, and literary historian. She has published over 25 books and written over 50 academic papers and essays. Her book on the lesser-known monuments of Delhi, Invisible City (2008), continues to be a bestseller. Her recent works include: Liking Progress, Loving Change: A Literary History of the Progressive Writers Movement in Urdu (OUP, 2014); a biography of Urdu feminist writer Dr Rashid Jahan A Rebel and her Cause (Women Unlimited, 2014); a translation of The Sea Lies Ahead, Intizar Husain's seminal novel on Karachi (Harper Collins, 2015) and Krishan Chandar's partition novel Ghaddar (Westland, 2017); an edited volume of critical writings on Ismat called An Uncivil Woman (Oxford University Press, 2017); and in the past year a literary biography of the Urdu poet Shahryar for Harper Collins; The Great War: Indian Writings on the First World War (Bloomsbury); Preeto & Other Stories: The Male Gaze in Urdu (Niyogi) and Kaifiyat, a translation of Kaifi Azmi’s poems for Penguin Random House and Jallianwala Bagh: Literary Responses in Prose & Poetry (Niyogi Books). Her latest book is But You Don’t Look Like a Muslim (Harper Collins), a collection of 40 essays on religion, culture, literature and identity. She runs an organization called Hindustani Awaaz, devoted to the popularization of Hindi-Urdu literature and culture, and writes regularly for major newspapers and magazines.



The Winner

Haider Shahbaz has a BA from Yale University and an MFA from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is the translator of Mirza Athar Baig's Hassan's State of Affairs (HarperCollins India, 2019) and the guest editor of Words Without Border's March 2020 issue, Against the Canon: Urdu Feminist Writing. He was the 2016-17 Charles Pick Fellow at the University of East Anglia, and received an ALTA (American Literary Translators Association) Travel Fellowship in 2016. He lives in Lahore.


Muneera Surati has practiced as a clinical psychologist in government hospitals and private clinics, at de-addiction centers, and with various non-governmental organisations. She is also a relationship and marriage counsellor and therapist. She has written 22 research papers based on her research on drug abuse. She has written short stories, plays, street plays, essays, and Urdu scripts for television, and translated Yash Pal’s celebrated Hindi novel Jhoota Sach into Urdu. She is currently working on her first Urdu novel and another novel in English based on her experience as a psychologist.

Tiffin Carrier

The 2019 Jawad Memorial Prize for Urdu-English Translation

The second Jawad Memorial Prize goes to Fatima Rizvi for her translation of 'Hajiyani', a khaka originally written by Javed Siddiqui and published in his collection, Raushan Daan. 


This year's prize was limited to non-fiction texts, either a literary essay or a khaka (pen portrait) in Urdu. The khaka in particular has had a brisk tradition and several writers have written about their contemporaries in invigorating and memorable ways. The winning entry is a charming, moving portrait of a woman who works for a family of zamindars that has fallen upon hard times. The translator shows a strong grasp of both the Urdu and English idiom and she has done justice to the character and the memory of Hajiyani through her translation.


The submissions were judged blind.


The jury 


Snehal Shingavi is an associate professor of English at the University of Texas, Austin, where he teaches South Asian literature in English, Hindi, and Urdu, as well as the literature of the South Asian diaspora, including Asian American literature. He is the author of The Mahatma Misunderstood: the politics and forms of literary nationalism in India.  He has also translated Munshi Premchand’s Hindi novel, Sevasadan [The Orphanage], the Urdu short-story collection, Angaaray [Firebrands], and Bhisham Sahni’s autobiography, Today’s Pasts.  With Vasudha Dalmia, he has also published a translation of Agyeya’s Shekhar: A Life. He is currently working on two book-length manuscripts (The Country and the City, the Jungle and the Slum: the neoliberal landscapes of South Asian literature and A Critical History of Hindi Literature) and several translation projects (Joginder Paul’s Urdu novel A Single Drop of Blood, Yashpal’s Hindi novella Geeta: Party Comrade, and Mannu Bhandari and Rajendra Yadav’s joint Hindi novel The Barest of Smiles). 


Daisy Rockwell paints under the takhallus, or alias, Lapata (pronounced ‘laapataa’), which is Urdu for “missing,” or “absconded,” as in “my luggage is missing,” or “the bandits have absconded.” She has shown her work widely. Apart from her essays on literature and art, she has written Upendranath Ashk: A Critical Biography, The Little Book of Terror, and the novel, Taste. Her highly acclaimed translations include Upendranath Ashk's Falling Walls, and In the City, a Mirror Wandering, Bhisham Sahni's Tamas, Krishna Sobti's A Gujarat Here, A Gujarat There, and Khadija Mastur’s The Women’s Courtyard.


Fatima Rizvi teaches literature at the University of Lucknow. Her areas of interest include literature in translation and postcolonial literature. Her research papers have been published in journals of national and international repute and in anthologies of criticism. She translates Urdu and Hindi.

The 2017 Jawad Memorial Prize for Urdu-English Translation

The winner of the inaugural Jawad Memorial Prize for Urdu-English Translation, 2017, is Rakshanda Jalil for her translation, ‘Smoke’, a short story written by Gulzar. 


The runner-up prize is shared by Fatima Rizvi for her translation of ‘The Outlaw’, a short story written by Premchand, and Raza Naeem for his translation of ‘Spring’, a short story written by Abdullah Hussain.

Congratulations to all three winners and we hope that they keep up their excellent work in translation and the creation of a richer, more diverse world culture.


The judges for this year’s award were Musharraf Ali Farooqi and Tabish Khair.


They were unanimous in awarding the prize to ‘Smoke’, a highly competent translation of ‘Dhuaan’, a simple but powerful story by Gulzar. Both the topicality and economy of the story, which talks about the violence and tragic absurdity of religious prejudice, and it's careful, even translation convinced both the judges that this entry deserves to be the winner. 


The judges decided that the runner up prize should be split between two shortlisted entries. Premchand’s ‘Qazzaqi’ is an outstanding attempt at tackling a nuanced story about power, caste and affection from a child’s perspective, while ‘Spring’, a translation of ‘Bahaar’ by Abdullah Hussain, is an understated story about hope, disappointment and deception. In both cases, the original texts were longer, perhaps more uneven in their tone, and hence presented the translators with greater difficulties as well as greater opportunities. The judges felt that these translations were outstanding attempts.

The Jury

Tabish Khair is the author of the novels Jihadi Jane; How to Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position; The Bus Stopped; Filming; and The Thing About Thugs. He is also the author of several books of poetry and non-fiction studies, including Where Parallel Lines Meet; Man of Glass; The New Xenophobia; Transnational and Post Colonial Vampires; Babu Fictions: Alienation in Indian English Novels; and The Gothic, Postcolonialism and Otherness.


He is the recipient of the All India Poetry Prize (awarded by the Poetry Society and the British Council) and an honorary fellowship (for creative writing) of the Baptist University of Hong Kong. His novels have been shortlisted for several prestigious prizes including the Man Asian Literary Prize, the Kirkus Prize, the Encore Award, the Prix de l'Inapercu, and the Tata Book of the Year Award, and his work has been translated into several languages.

Musharraf Ali Farooqi is an author, translator, storyteller, and folklorist, and the founder-editor of the Urdu Thesaurus. His novels include the critically acclaimed Between Clay and Dust, shortlisted for the Man Asia Literary Prize 2012, and The Story of a Widow, shortlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, 2008. Rabbit Rap is a modernist fable for young adults. His children's books include the collection, The Amazing Moustaches of Moochhander the Iron Man and Other Stories, illustrated by Michelle Farooqi, shortlisted for the India ComicCon Award in the Best Publication for Children category, and the picture book The Cobbler's Holiday: or Why Ants Don't Wear Shoes.


He is the translator, among other works, of the internationally acclaimed epic, The Adventures of Amir Hamza; Rococo and Other Worlds – Selected Poetry of Afzal Ahmed Syed; The Beast, a translation of Syed Muhammad Ashraf's Urdu novella Numberdar ka Neela.

The Winners

Dr. Rakhshanda Jalil is a writer, critic and literary historian. She has published several books and academic papers and essays. Her books include Invisible City; Release & Other Stories; Liking Progress, Loving Change: A Literary History of the Progressive Writers Movement in Urdu; and a biography of Urdu feminist writer Dr. Rashid Jahan, A Rebel and her Cause.  She has translated short stories by Intizar Husain as The Death of Sheherzad, and a novel by Intizar Husain, The Sea Lies Ahead, which was awarded the KLF Peace Prize by the Karachi Litfest and the German Embassy. She also runs an organization called Hindustani Awaaz, devoted to the popularization of Hindi-Urdu literature and culture, and she has been awarded the Kaifi Azmi Award for her contribution to Urdu.


Fatima Rizvi teaches literature at the University of Lucknow. Her areas of interest include literature in translation and postcolonial literature. Her research papers have been published in journals of national and international repute and in anthologies of criticism. She translates Urdu and Hindi.


Raza Naeem is a Pakistani social scientist, book critic, and an award-winning translator and dramatic reader currently engaged as an Instructor in History at the Senior School in the Beaconhouse School Systems in Lahore. He is the recipient of a prestigious 2013-2014 Charles Wallace Trust Fellowship in the UK for his translation and interpretive work on Saadat Hasan Manto's essays. He is currently the President of the Progressive Writers Association in Lahore and is working on translations of the selected work of Sibte Hasan, Ahmad Nadeem Qasmi and Abdullah Hussein.