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Remembering Humphrey Davies

We are very sad to share the news that Humphrey Davies has passed away. Renowned for his translations from Arabic by writers including Naguib Mahfouz, Alaa al-Aswany, and Mohamed Mustagab, and for his inspired translation of Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq’s Leg Over Leg, Davies was a spirited advocate for the work of his writers, and an intelligent, playful, and judicious translator. His translations of Elias Khoury’s books, including Gate of the Sun, Yalo, Broken Mirrors, and Children of the Ghetto, introduced English speakers to one of the great literary minds of the last several decades. Davies was also a source of encouragement and solidarity for fellow translators, especially those who were learning the ropes.

As Marcia Lynx Qualey writes in Arab Lit Daily, “In tributes that have begun to appear from grieving friends and colleagues online, there are some who mention his important role in experimental translation, in bringing fun and excitement to Arabic literature — whether classical or contemporary — but also many who remember he was a warm person, a loving friend, companionable, unassuming, welcoming, kind.”

In a New York Times tribute, Nana Asfour writes, “Davies was a key figure in introducing contemporary Middle Eastern writers to an English language audience, rendering their prose into English with crisp and precise translations rich in nuance and sensitivity to the original.” You can access the article through Dropbox here.

We have tremendous gratitude for the work Humphrey Davies contributed to Archipelago Books in recent years. His love of literature and his dedication to translation will continue to shine through his books.

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Karthika Naïr’s Until the Lions in the New York Review of Books

A purpley maroon book cover with a black and white photo of ruins centered on the front

A purpley maroon book cover with a black and white photo of ruins centered on the frontDavid Shulman has written a thoughtful and engrossing paean to Karthika Naïr’s Until the Lions in the September 24th issue of the New York Review of Books.  Shulman’s piece situates Naïr’s work in the long and intricate history of the Mahabharata, praising Until the Lions for its nimble play of poetic forms and deep emotional register, as well as Naïr’s inventive reconstruction  of the Mahabharata’s less-sung stories. You can find the review here, and read an excerpt below:

The most lyrical of all such attempts to see the Mahabharata through the eyes of its characters is the remarkable dramatic poem Until the Lions by the Kerala-born, Paris-based poet, dance producer, and librettist Karthika Naïr. She has given her book an appropriate subtitle: “Echoes from the Mahabharata.” The thirty haunting, heartrending chapters, in a wide range of forms and styles, resonate powerfully with one another…

Nearly all the chapters are first-person dramatic monologues uttered by female characters known from the Mahabharata (with the exception of one newly invented voice, that of the clairvoyant canine Shunaka, who reembodies the speaking dog Sarama mentioned at the very beginning, or one of the beginnings, of the epic). The female voices are, almost without exception, tormented, ravaged, grief-stricken, bitterly lamenting the irrevocable, unthinkable losses that their fathers, husbands, brothers, brothers-in-law, lovers, and sons have inflicted on them. I don’t think I have ever seen a description of rape as unflinching as Sauvali’s rage at King Dhritarashtra and the configuration of sycophantic politicians and courtiers who force her to submit to him. Sauvali exemplifies a prominent pattern in these chapters: women whose names are known from the Sanskrit epic but whose character and inner experience are muted there suddenly come to life as full-blooded people caught up in the destruction endemic to a male world (well, maybe to any human world)…

Karthika, in the voice of Uttaraa, has articulated something I remember all too well from my own wartime service in Lebanon. Among the soldiers in my unit, only one, I think—our gung-ho commanding officer—identified with the specious rhetoric coming at us from the politicians back home in Jerusalem. Karthika’s Mahabharata is, among other things, a passionate antiwar manifesto; she and her characters are sensitive to the perversion of language that is always needed to generate more dead heroes, and to the cost borne by those who survive…

This is a Mahabharata for our generation. It includes stories that have attached themselves to the classical epic via local, regional traditions…Her poems share the kaleidoscopic quality of the epic text, its persistent, dizzying perspectivism as it moves from one episode to the next, one ardent speaker to another.

One could also see the Mahabharata, as the anthropologist Don Handelman has suggested, as a vast laboratory for existential experiment, in which the great themes and above all the ethical quandaries of a civilization can be brought to light, played out, and examined. Such themes are not abstract entities but lived human realities, mostly agonizing and opaque, eluding any simple or, indeed, possible resolution. From a point somewhere deep within this laboratory, Karthika Naïr has captured in words the tonality of this mammoth text.

The Widows’ Laments

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Daniel Hahn discusses The Society of Reluctant Dreamers with Malaprop’s Bookstore

Daniel Hahn, who translated José Eduardo Agualusa’s The Society of Reluctant Dreamers from the original Portuguese, was interviewed via videoconference by Justin Souther, Malaprop’s Senior Buyer and Bookstore Manager in late April. Hahn has written numerous books of nonfiction and has translated the works of Juan Pablo Villalobos, Fernando Vilela, Julián Fuks, and Carola Saavedra, among others.  You can watch Daniel and Justin’s conversation below.

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Independent bookstores need us!

“The big lesson from this virus is that we are all connected. We need each other. We are a global community – hopefully out of this mess can come a renewed appreciation of our shared humanity.” —Chris Morrow, Northshire Books

Our independent booksellers need us all right now. One way to support booksellers is by donating to the Book Industry Charitable Foundation (BINC), here or by phone 866-733-9064. In many cases, buying gift cards for your future book needs is the most supportive action you can take, aside from donations. To support specific shops, we’ve laid out the policies and requests of the stores themselves below with links. As this is an evolving situation, please note that things may change in the coming days.

192 Books For general inquiries, special orders, gift certificates, and signed editions: You can follow 192 on Instagram for future updates at @192books.

Aeon Bookstore You can buy books through the Aeon instagram (@aeonbooks), through ebay at this link, or through Aeon’s website Aeon is selling hand painted totes for $20 as well as gift certificates.  To purchase a gift certificate you can Venmo @aeonbookstore with “gift certificate” in the subject line. You can also support Aeon by donating through paypal ( or Venmo (@aeonbookstore).

Blue Stockings You can support Blue Stockings by signing up to be a sustaining member here or buying a gift certificate here. You can follow them on instagram at @bluestockingsnyc for updates.

Book Culture To place an order or to request a gift card for future purchases, please call Book Culture at (212) 865-1588.You can follow them on instagram at @bookculture for updates.

Better Read Than Dead / Book Row The booksellers of Better Read Than Dead are posting stock on Instagram daily, and are always open to requests or recommendations. They’re hoping to have more comprehensive inventory online soon and have an ebay account here. They ship books for free in the US. You can follow their instagram at @better_read_than_dead_bk. Sign up for their weekly catalogues of notable and special material by emailing To purchase a gift certificate, you can send money to their PayPal (same email as above) or Venmo them @book-row with your name and the subject line “GIFT CERTIFICATE.”

Books Are Magic  You can get a gift card here and they will ship books everywhere if you place an order on their online shop, here. You can follow their instagram at @booksaremagicbk for updates.

Books of Wonder  You can purchase both both online gift cards and in store gift cards available via their website. As of now, they’re still doing direct shipping from the shop. Between 12-6pm, customers in NYC are welcome to call their preferred location (contact list is here) and ask for assistance from a bookseller. They’re happy to make recommendations, help facilitate a phone or web transaction, and then hand off the order at the shop door. You can follow them on social media at @booksofwonder. They’re boosting tons of virtual readings, drawing demos, IG live convos, and resources. They will also be broadcasting their weekly storytimes live. For virtual launches, you can check their events page, here. They’re teaming up with authors they had on the schedule to bring their events live online.

The Center for Fiction You can donate to the Center for Fiction here and shop for books on their site here. For updates, follow them on Instagram at @center4fiction.

Codex To support Codex, you can purchase gift certificates (redeemable forever) via Venmo. Their account is “codexbooks” (last four digits of their phone number associated with the account are “4255”). They are not currently taking orders as a precaution. For updates, you can follow their instagram at @codexbooks.

Community Bookstore / Terrace Books You can purchase a gift certificate here. And you can order from Community and Terrrace by phone (718-783-3075) and online on their website. They are offering free delivery of books ordered on their website by media mail.

Greenlight You can still order books from Greenlight at their online shop, here, and they are still shipping anywhere in the US with free shipping for orders over $100. Some of Greenlight’s book groups will be moved to Zoom! If you would like to join a meeting you can reach out to individual book group hosts by email. Information on that is here. You can follow them on Instagram at @greenlightbklyn.

Mast Books Gift certificates and donations are available on Mast’s website, here. They are auctioning off some great material on ebay, here, and will be adding daily updates to their ABE account, here, which was just launched. Mast Books is very happy to accommodate direct shipping from the shop via email ( or phone (646-370-1114) and as of now, on a case by case basis, they are willing to coordinate pick up from the shop. Many other interesting and exciting things are in the works, the best place for updates is their Instagram account which is @mastbooks.

McNally Jackson To support McNally Jackson’s booksellers, who are currently out of work due to the crisis, you can donate to a fund that will be divided equally among them, here. Orders are still available at McNally Jackson, here, and gift cards are available here. Free economy shipping will be provided for gift cards, reader rewards cards, and order over $50.

Molasses Books To support Molasses, you can Venmo any amount to the account @molassesbooks with the words “FUTUREBEER” to have that money put towards drinks at their eventual !!Reopening party!! You can also Venmo @molassesbooks with the word “EMPLOYEE TIPS,” and all money collected will be divided up amongst the four employees who are now out of work. The third way to help out Molasses’s jobless staff, if you want to just offset the cost of this chaos but don’t want a beer, is to Venmo “BLESSING” to @molassesbooks to simply donate to the store to go to rent, bills, etc. You can follow Molasses for updates on Instagram at @molassesbooks.

Stories Bookshop + Storytelling Lab Restocking will become trickier in the coming weeks, so if you’d like to place an order, you can pay special attention to the “Stories Can Change the World” Letterpress Print made by @waspprint Nick Hurd, using never before seen art by his iconic grandfather, Clement Hurd. These were originally created for Stories’s Kickstarter backers who first allowed Stories to open; and their cute Stories logo tote which can serve very nicely as a school supply sack for kids learning from home. Both can be found on their webshop, here, in the merch section. You can follow them on Instagram at @storiesbk.

The Strand You can support the strand by ordering online, here, and by purchasing gift cards, here.

Three Lives Per the governor’s directions, Three Lives will be closing and sending their staff home on the afternoon of Sunday, 3/22. To purchase a gift card from Three Lives, you can email them at or call them at 212-741-2069.

Topos Everything that they post on Instagram (@toposbookstore) will be available to ship via USPS. Their Instagram is also full of reading recommendations. You can purchase a gift certificate here. You can donate to their staff, who are out of work due to closing their doors during the public health crisis, at this link. Or please feel free to venmo @Topos-Bookstore, phone number ending in x5990. Any little bit helps <3

Unnameable Books The best way to support Unnameable at this time is to buy a gift card, which you can do by sending money to them through Paypal with this email address,, or calling them at 718 789 1534. At this time, they are also still accepting orders, which you can also place by calling or emailing them. You can follow their Instagram at @unnameablebooks.

Word Bookstores You can shop by phone during store hours 11AM-6PM (Brooklyn 718-383-0096, Jersey City 201-763-6611) or you can order online anytime, here. You can follow their Instagram at @wordbookstores.Word Up Community Bookshop At this time, you can order books from Word Up online here or donate here. You can follow them for updates on Instagram at @wordupbooks.

You can also always shop at Indie Bound, here, to support independently owned shops from across the country. We are so grateful for our devoted New York booksellers and their commitment to our reading habit!  Take good care.
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Newcomers in the Wall Street Journal

In a book review published by the Wall Street Journal this week, Sam Sacks considers the second installment of Lojze Kovačič’s Newcomers translated by Michael Biggins. The review can be found here in full. The following is excerpted from the piece:

The second volume of Lojze Kovacic’s absorbing wartime chronicle “Newcomers” (Archipelago, 384 pages, $22) now arrives, continuing the remembrances of the autobiographical narrator, Bubi. Book One, published in 1984 (and in English in 2016), recounted Bubi’s family’s expulsion from Switzerland to the Slovene territory of Yugoslavia at the outbreak of World War II. The second installment, again translated from the Slovenian by Michael Biggins, follows the young man’s adolescence in Ljubljana during the war years. As before, the piquant particularities of childhood are set before a backdrop of global confrontation. Bubi tells of his schooldays, his troublemaking with friends and his sexual awakening while, all around him, running battles between Yugoslav partisans and Nazi occupiers are waged in the streets.
Book Two deepens one’s appreciation for Kovacic’s major stylistic gambit, his prolific use of the ellipsis. Recalling his first visit to the opera house, Bubi is awestruck by “the tiers of balconies . . . all the way up to the ceiling . . . the white, bulging loges like cells of a beehive with gilt ornamentation. And the gigantic crowns of the chandeliers suspended in air . . . But most of all the silence . . .” The punctuation has the twofold effect of reflecting gaps in memory while conveying a feeling of constant anticipation for whatever might appear next.
Ultimately, “Newcomers” crystallizes into a classic artist’s coming-of-age story, as Bubi is drawn to painting and then writing, where, as in this rich and fascinating novel, he will search for a way to synthesize the enchantments of youth with the hard realities of the war.
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Katherine Silver interviewed in the Believer

Katherine Silver’s translation of Juan Carlos Onetti’s short stories came out in November of this year.

“An elusive puppeteer, a wizard behind a curtain, someone heard but not seen.” Katherine Silver thus describes her work as a translator in a recent interview with The Believer. Silver translated Juan Carlos Onetti’s A Dream Come True which Archipelago published this fall.

“Language-based artistic activity is not self-expression, even if it does start with that as a spark, an initial impulse, but…it then must dive deeply into the only true commons we have, language, and from there craft something beyond the self.” Read more at the link below!

An Interview with Katherine Silver

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The Barefoot Woman Shortlisted for the National Book Award


We are so pleased to announce that The Barefoot Woman is a finalist for the National Book Award in Translated Literature! We are so proud of Scholastique Mukasonga and Jordan Stump, who translated the book from the original French.

The National Book Award judges have selected The Barefoot Woman alongside four other beautiful works of translation. You can see the full list of finalists at the National Book Foundation’s website.

Zadie Smith calls The Barefoot Woman “a powerful work of witness and memorial, a loving act of reconstruction, and an unflinching reckoning with the Rwandan Civil War.” Julian Lucas writes in the New York Times, that Mukasonga “turns everything over restlessly: In her prose, poignant reminiscences sharpen into bitter ironies, or laments reveal flashes of comedy, determination, defiance.”