Alan Verskin’s A Vision of Yemen: The Travels of a European Orientalist and His Native Guide: A Translation of Hayyim Habshuh’s Travelogue received an honorable mention from the Modern Language Association’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for a Translation of a Literary Work competition. The committee citation reads: “Alan Verskin’s A Vision of Yemen translates an astonishing document, originally written by Hayyim Habshush in Hebrew and Judeo-Arabic, that lets us see European nineteenth century Oriental scholarship from a rare perspective. Habshush served as a translator and ‘fixer’ for a French archaeologist, who he accompanied on his explorations in 1869–70, and his travelogue is an account of their journey to the back country of Yemen, then still ruled by tribal authorities. The work is full of Borgesian digressions, tales from the past, peculiar customs, poetic recitations, medical advice, ritual observances, disquisitions about customary law, and other matters as they come to the author’s mind. Verskin displays impressive skill and scholarship in translating and annotating the memoirs of this unpretentious man from a distant time and place.
Verskin earned his Ph.D. from Near Eastern Studies in 2010 and previously has published Oppressed in the Land? Fatwās on Muslims Living under Non-Muslim Rule from the Middle Ages to the Present (Markus Wiener, 2013) and Islamic Law and the Crisis of the Reconquista: The Debate on the Status of Muslim Communities in Christendom (Brill, 2015).