On translation and anti-intellectualism

I have seen some pretty awful and very blatant antintellectualism in my life. This is a nice call out, we need to pay more attention.


Chandler: “You didn’t read Lord of the Rings in high school?”

Joey: “No, I had sex in high school.”

…and the audience laughed.

I get why it’s a good comeback. But I also get why that, in itself, is a problem.

Don’t take me wrong, Friends was one of my favorite shows in the mid to late nineties. Back then I was a teenager with a lot to learn about life, yet even then I knew (at least intuitively) that there was something fundamentally wrong with the world as Friends portrayed it (starting with its lack of ethnic diversity). I just couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I came across this thought provoking post by David Hopkins where he makes a compelling case against Friends and what the show’s success says about us as viewers. While the initial premise that a single American sitcom triggered the downfall of…

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I’m forcing some more creative activity…

Hi all,

To be clear: I do not translate into Arabic professionally. However, as I embark on my graduate school journey, I’ve decided to stretch. I’ll be posting some images on Instagram (@Tarjema) of translations. They will all be small; short pieces, quotes, that kind of thing. Here is the first:

A Few Words to a Young Writer

A photo posted by Tim Gregory (@tarjema) on

I’ll work on my photography skills, too. Promise.


Some Tech Notes

I know almost everything I’ve posted lately has been reblogs, and I’m a bit sorry about that. I’d love to put up more unique content. My life is about to get even busier, so I don’t know if that will change. But today, I’d like to share a couple of tech notes.

First, one of my computers is an older model Dell Venue 8 Pro; it has a 32gb drive and 2gb of RAM and Dell makes a decent active stylus for their tablet systems (the stylus also works with my main computer, an Inspiron 7352!). The Windows 10 Anniversary update came out a couple of weeks ago now, and included some nice updates for stylus-enabled systems. Being more of a geek than is healthy for me, I really wanted to install it on my tablet. The problem is that, even after removing everything but the operating system – and even using some admin tools to strip the OS to bare bones, I was never able to free enough space to get the installer to work. It says it wants 16GB of free space, tough to accomplish when the 32gb drive has 23gb of usable space, and the OS takes up around 8gb. Even when I got to 17gb free the installer failed.

So. I downloaded the installation image creation tool from Microsoft and did a clean Windows 10 install (no Dell preloaded software). This took forever, and the OS I ended up with was not the Anniversary update. After running all of the system updates, I grabbed a fresh copy of the installation image creation tool and did another clean install. This time I got the update! Hooray🙂

If you are going through this, don’t give up. You can make it work.

Windows 10 image creation tool (use “Download Tool Now”)
Freeing up space in Windows 10: Article 1, Article 2
Dell USB adapter/power adapter – so you can charge the battery & use a keyboard and mouse at the same time. (I got mine on eBay a bit cheaper)

Now, to get a copy of the most recent MS Office and a drawing glove for using OneNote for Sketchnotes.

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Kareem James Abu-Zeid on ‘Literary’ vs. ‘Academic’ Translation

This article/interview about literary vs. academic translation is well worth your time.

Arabic Literature (in English)

Way back in March, Kareem James Abu-Zeid was in D.C. for the Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here festival. At that time, he spoke with Epicenter about Mutanabbi (the tenth-century poet of poets) and about the art of translation:

This is not academia. This is not academia.

Kareem James Abu-Zeid is one of a few professional Arabic-English translators who makes his living outside academia. In the past, he has taught courses in Arabic (and German, French, and English) at UC Berkeley and at the Universities of Mannheim and Heidelberg in Germany. But he has since left the academy. And his primary focus was never on academic work, but on translating and writing.

In the interview, which is posted in full below, he discussed the divide between “academic” and “literary” translation:

Everybody has different takes on translation — and there’s actually a lot of Arabic literature being translated — there’s a pretty strong divide between what I’d call more academic…

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Any Last Requests?

Saad al-Ashmawi. A headsman, reaper of souls; a murderer authorized by law. After taking hundreds of lives, he has developed an uncanny ability: just as the blade strikes home, as the body crumples to the ground, during that momentary journey down the well into darkness, this supernatural ability opens his eyes to see and understand the thoughts of those who are crossing over into death.

The human soul is the one possession most dear to any person. Death, also, is beyond price. That is why he could see into the minds of those about to die in those final moments of stark terror. He saw amazing things before the day that changed things forever. He asked the traditional question before execution, “Any last request?” He offered to fulfill a final wish, then made the fateful cut, and then he would see their thoughts. This time however, the thoughts were of him. His life from that moment on would never be the same, thrown into complete chaos by his quest for the truth behind this ability. From a world perpetually awash in death in the execution chamber, he found himself in a completely different world of the dead, one far more wild and perilous.

Mars One: No Return

[I haven’t read the book yet, this is a translation of the synopsis above]

Mars One: No Return a project underway in the real world.

Are you bored? Discontented with life on planet Earth? Do you dream of a journey away from the familiar? We can make your dreams come true. All you have to do is apply online.

Be warned: it is a one-way ticket; there is no return trip. Every two years a crew of four will be sent, you could be on the next mission. You need to be fully prepared.

Four individuals decided to undertake this suicidal voyage and to be on the first mission. The public motivation for the trip: Help mankind take a giant leap forward. In reality, each individual has their own reasons and hidden motivations for making the irrevocable decision to depart planet Earth and never return. The project was attacked on humanitarian grounds: How could they go along with sending a human being on a one-way voyage? The cleverest aspect is that some of the project’s profits will come from pay-per-view! There will be a live feed broadcasting the details of the crew members lives on the surface of Mars.

The novel’s events occur between 2005 and 2025, but the seed of the tale was planted while the world was embroiled in events. International conflict, a plethora of intelligence factions, and various organizations forced their way on to the stage along with nations allied with one another and at odds with each other. Let the events of this tale carry you on a unique trip through time, space, and the human heart. From Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Tel Aviv, Crimea, Australia, America, to outer space and Mars. This novel tells the tale of four complete strangers whose lives were brought together by political decisions and worldwide economic shifts. You will gain a deeper understanding of what it means when someone you have never met explains the intricate details of a mission you know had never heard of that has been involved in an important part of your life. This story will present past, present, and future combined with political thriller, romance, horror, comedy, action, fantasy, and the magical world of space.

El Yassob [The Dragonfly]

[translated from the back cover]

Year: 2071

Location: The Kingdom of United Southern Arabia (Egypt, Sudan, and Nubia) – Eastern Desert Sector

The World: Females, males, and … Dragonflies

A new and terrifying world with different classes. Under the rule of a mercilessly harsh queen, a misandrist who hates anything to do with the Y chromosome. She is trying to completely eradicate men through an insane plot to manipulate genes to eliminate the need for males. Women have been promoted, placed in high-level positions, and given all white-collar jobs. University education is exclusively available to women. They have primacy in every arena. The queen selects the strongest, most handsome, smartest, most gifted and outstanding men as her “Dragonflies”, and they are fanatically loyal to her.

Seif, a former Dragonfly, spent fourteen years at the mother colony, the one directly connected to the queen’s palace. He now finds himself on the freeway along the Aswan border. He does not know how he got there, much less where he is, but he knows one fact: He does not want to return to the colony, though it offers everything he could desire … he does not want to be a Dragonfly, though that position comes with all of the advantages possible for a man to possess in that nightmarish world full of terrifying events. Instead, he wants to be a regular man. A nothing who has nothing but poverty, ignorance, and hard labor.

The penalty for treason is clear. The choice is not really a choice: life in the Waterfalls Prison, or going to the submission declaration chamber after serving five years.

At the colony’s prison, Seif found himself among a group of men who had set two goals for themselves: escape from that hellish place, and permanently eliminating the queen in order to return everything to its rightful place. Then the world could go back to its natural order: male and female, and … nothing else.

Will the men succeed in returning things to normal and gaining back their natural rights in the world, including work, education, and even medical treatment?

I haven’t made enough progress

I mentioned that I was looking into translation Yaasoob by Ehab Abdelmawla. I’ve translated a bit, but not nearly as much as I ought to have done. He has come out with two others since then: Mars One: No Return and Any Last Requests (thanks to an Egyptian friend for telling me the significance of the phrase نفسك في أيه!).

I’ve translated the back cover material for both books, I’ll make them into two separate posts in case you want to share or save them.