Once the book is written, what chance of translation into English? Only 3% of the 150,000 or so books published in Britain each year are literary translations.
English PEN's remit since its foundation in 1921 has been to "give a voice to the voiceless." This year The Writers' in Translation programme is celebrating its fifth year of supporting authors, especially raising the profile of authors at risk.
Eli's first language is Judeo-Arabic and he only "technically" wrote his novels in Hebrew. He heard the book in Arabic in his head, in the voices of his mother and father arguing in Arabic and so in his novels, "I wrote down what they said."
I have published a more extensive interview with Eli Amir which you can read here.
Atiq told us, "Language remains a mystery." His choice of language has a huge impact on the rhythm of his work. For this new novel he chose French over Persian for just that reason.
Eli was asked in Germany, "How did you feel hearing you book read in German?"
He smiled and said, "In my left ear was German, in my right ear was Arabic, my father's voice and I followed in my Hebrew version of the book from right to left."
Ultimately Eli wrote his book so that his children will know where he came from and also so that they would understand their grandparents background. "I wanted to recreate the city of my childhood which I loved so much and to keep it with me so I can hang it at night like I hang the book," he said.
Writers in Translation is a powerful force for good in the world.
A vibrant border-crossing revelation of contemporary international literature...what writing is all about.
What a wonderful and indispensable project this is.
How can there be peace without us knowing each other?
Eli Amir speaking in Cairo.
Listen to a radio interview with Eli Amir.