Israeli writer wins $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship

Peter Cole, who works in Jerusalem, has become known for publishing English translations of medieval Hebrew and Arabic poets, as well as for his own poetry.

Peter Cole, a writer who works in Jerusalem, is among the 24 winners of this year's MacArthur Fellowships. The fellowships are worth $500,000 each over a three year period.

"I received a surprise phone call a week ago, and I didn't believe it. So that I would believe it, they sent a follow-up letter," Cole told "Globes" this morning. He was educated in the US, and came to Israel ("I don't like the term aliya) in 1981 with his wife, the author Adina Hoffman.

The citation from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation reads, "Peter Cole is a translator, publisher, and poet who brings the often overlooked works of medieval Spain and the modern Middle East to English-speaking audiences. His highly regarded translations of the poetry of Solomon Ibn Gabirol and Shmuel HaNagid, two of the great Hebrew poets of the Andalusian “Golden Age,” offer readers a lyrical illustration of the extraordinary Arab-Jewish cultural partnership that flourished in tenth- through twelfth-century Spain.

"Underlying Cole’s translations is an implicit message of cultural and historical cross-fertilization that is also evident in his work as a poet and a publisher. His Ibis Editions publishes little-known works translated from Arabic, Hebrew, German, French, and Ladino, enlightening English-speaking audiences to the thriving literary tradition of the Levant.

"By fostering literary dialogue in and about the Middle East, Ibis provides an occasion for intellectual and cultural collaboration. In a region mired in conflict, Cole’s dedication to the literature of the Levant offers a unique and inspiring vision of the cultural, religious, and linguistic interactions that were and are possible among the peoples of the Middle East."

Cole began his undergraduate studies at Williams College, and received a BA (1980) from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. He is the author of two volumes of poetry, and has also published many volumes of translation from Hebrew and Arabic. He is the co-editor of Ibis Editions, which he co-founded in 1998, and has been a visiting writer and professor at Wesleyan University, Middlebury College, and Yale University. His third volume of poems is due to be published in New York shortly.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation is a private, independent grant-making institution dedicated to building a more just and sustainable world. With an endowment over $6.4 billion, the Foundation makes grants totaling approximately $225 million each year.

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on September 25, 2007

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2007

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