The Translator by Leila Aboulela

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American readers were introduced to the award-winning Sudanese author Leila Aboulela with Minaret, a delicate tale of a privileged young African Muslim woman adjusting to her new life as a maid in London. Now, for the first time in North America, we step back to her extraordinarily assured debut about a widowed Muslim mother living in Aberdeen who falls in love with a Scottish secular academic. Sammar is a Sudanese widow working as an Arabic translator at a Scottish university. Since the sudden death of her husband, her young son has gone to live with family in Khartoum, leaving Sammar alone in cold, gray Aberdeen, grieving and isolated. But when she begins to translate for Rae, a Scottish Islamic scholar, the two develop a deep friendship that awakens in Sammar all the longing for life she has repressed. As Rae and Sammar fall in love, she knows they will have to address his lack of faith in all that Sammar holds sacred. An exquisitely crafted meditation on love, both human and divine, The Translator is ultimately the story of one woman’s courage to stay true to her beliefs, herself, and her newfound love.

About Leila Aboulela

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LEILA ABOULELA was born in Cairo and grew up in Khartoum. She is the author of two novels: The Translator, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Minaret-- both longlisted for the Orange Prize and the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Her book of short stories, Coloured Lights, published in 2001, contained her story " The Museum," which made her the first winner of the Caine Prize for African Writing. Leila Aboulela lives between Doha and Aberdeen. Visit her website at
Published December 1, 2007 by Grove Press, Black Cat. 212 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Education & Reference. Fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Aboulela’s lovely, brief story encompasses worlds of melancholy and gulfs between cultures in its depiction of Sammar, a Sudanese woman born in the UK, married in Africa to her beloved cousin Tarig and quickly widowed after a car accident in the gray, chilly Scottish city of Aberdeen.

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The New York Times

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She has spent the four years since his death almost entirely withdrawn from the world, her only comfort the five azan (daily calls to prayer) that gently remind her “only Allah is eternal.” It is not until she begins working for Rae, an agnostic Scottish Islamic scholar, that Sammar begins to ima...

Nov 12 2006 | Read Full Review of The Translator

Entertainment Weekly

Sammar, a Sudanese woman mourning the sudden death of her husband, leaves her son behind in Khartoum to work as an Arabic translator at a university in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Oct 06 2006 | Read Full Review of The Translator

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