Announcing the Winner of the Inaugural Mo Habib Translation Prize  

Submitted by Naomi B Sokoloff on
Mo Habib: Artwork by Amelia Ossorio, MELC student majoring in Persian

The Department of Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures (MELC) is thrilled to announce the winner of the inaugural cycle of the Mo Habib Translation Prize in Persian Literature: Dr. Michelle Quay, for her translation of Reza Ghassemi’s novel Woodwind Harmony in the Nighttime (Hamnava’i-ye shabaneh-ye orkestr-e chubha). Dr. Quay and Mr. Ghassemi will be awarded $10,000 and $5,000 respectively while the novel will be published by Deep Vellum Publishing in 2025. The judges would like to recognize Hajar Hussaini for her translation of Khosraw Mani's Death and Its Brother as an honorable mention.

MELC received twenty varied and exciting submissions from around the world. We are deeply thankful to the Mo Habib Memorial Foundation for making this initiative possible and to the judges who carefully read and discussed the submissions: Anna Learn, doctoral student in Near and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Washington; Shelley Fairweather-Vega, literary translator from Uzbek and Russian and past president of NOTIS; and Siamak Vossoughi, Iranian-American writer and educator based in Seattle. The judges write: 

"Ghassemi’s novel, whimsical and darkly humorous at once, follows the life (and afterlife) of an Iranian man recently arrived in Paris, who finds himself amidst a bizarre group of exiles trying to eke out an existence in the French metropolis. Darting among absurd characters and comical episodes, Dr. Quay’s translation sample is a romp to read, and draws the reader in with ease, while also dropping anxious hints at the provocative political and social questions the novel promises to raise about the immigrant experience. A winner of the prestigious Golshiri Prize in Iran, Woodwind Harmony in the Nighttime will be an exciting addition to the library of modern Persian literature available in English."

MELC looks forward to working with Dr. Quay and Deep Vellum Publishing to ensure that Woodwind Harmony in the Nighttime will soon be in the hands of English-language readers and listeners in print and audio book formats. The second cycle of the Mo Habib Translation Prize will be announced in September and will focus on Persian poetry. Stay tuned!