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Hutchins recognized by NEA

Article Published: Jul. 28, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Hutchins recognized by NEA

Dr. William M. Hutchins has received his second National Endowment of the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship.

A professor in Appalachian State University's Department of Philosophy and Religion, Hutchins will use the award to translate the novel, "New Waw," by Arabic language author Ibrahim al-Koni.

He is one of only 16 professional translators to receive a 2012 NEA fellowship to support the translation of works into English. A total of $200,000 is being shared by the award recipients.

Hutchins is well known for his English translations of works by Arabic authors. This will be the fourth al-Koni novel that Hutchins will have translated. He also translated "Anubis: A Desert Novel," "The Puppet" and "The Seven Veils of Seth," for which he received an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship in 2005.

Hutchins, who learned Arabic while an instructor at the Gerard Institute in Lebanon in the late 1960s, enjoys al-Koni's use of folklore and mythology of the nomadic Tuareg tribe as metaphors for modern life.

"Some people like the romanticism of al-Koni's description of the desert and the mystery of the desert. But he also has a political dimension to his writings," Hutchins said. "He has a very elegant and recognizable writing style. That's part of the challenge of translating his works to English. You want your translation to be elegant also, without coming across as stilted."

The desert is featured prominently in al-Koni's novels. Born in 1948 in the south Libyan desert, al-Koni is a member of a Tuareg tribe. He worked as a journalist in Warsaw before moving to Switzerland, where he now resides.

Hutchins' translation of Fadhil al-Azzawi's novel, "The Traveler and the Innkeeper," was published this spring by the American University of Cairo Press. Hutchins also was the principal translator of "Cairo Trilogy," written by the late Egyptian author and Nobel Prize for Literature winner Naguib Mahfouz.

NEA chairman Rocco Landesman said, "Translation not only brings great literature to wider audiences, but it also creates a broader awareness of cultures. Through these 16 fellowships, the NEA is bringing knowledge of cultures around the world, from both the past and present, to American audiences."

Since the inception of the literary translation program in 1981, the arts endowment has awarded 339 translation fellowships in 62 languages from 72 countries. This year saw the largest number of applications - 105 received for the fellowships. For the complete list of NEA Literature Translation Fellows for 2012, visit

The National Endowment for the Arts was established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government. To date, the NEA has awarded more than $4 billion to support artistic excellence, creativity and innovation for the benefit of individuals and communities. The NEA extends its work through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies and the philanthropic sector.

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