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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…

View original post 321 more words

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.

[Translated] Poetry is the Shortest Path to Prison in the Gulf – Raseef 22

Mona Kareem 10/4/2015 – translated by Tarjema

Muawiyah al-Rawahi did not know that his Omani citizenship, which allowed him to drive his car across the borders and bridges in the Gulf, would be the thing that would entrap him. Muawiyah was on his way to the Sultanate of Oman, crossing the border they share with Emirates after a short trip to the neighboring states. This border was the source of many tales of problems encountered by colonists, regular people, and transients. Muawiyah had relayed these stories in his blog, “Muawiyah al-Rawahi’s Delirium”, the contents of which were deleted after his arrest.

However, this was not the first time that Muawiyah was detained. The Omani authorities placed him in a mental hospital as part of the sandstorm blowing through on the winds of the “Arab Spring”. They considered him subversive to the Qur’an and an atheist, writing vertical poems, and teaching people how to memorize verses with the help of numbers.

Muwawiyah

Muawiyah al-Rawahi

Muawiyah has several books of poetry and prose, including his most recent volume, “The Charter of Salvation”, in which he talks about his experience in the prison/hospital. However, Muawiyah did not raise the ire of anyone through his literary work. Instead, it was his virtual presence on his blog and YouTube channel. He “theorizes” that the internet is like an “intellectual experiment” to determine and discover the self. He “intellectualizes” to his viewers through long vlog posts about a walk to buy cigarettes or a trip to look for a taxi driver. Muawiyah thinks that his “lengthy postings distance him from impatient meddlers, and provoke the eyes of security observers who are worn out by the ramblings of all-night chatter”. These video clips are part of what the poet calls a “free-form” of “field extrapolation” of his surroundings.

On Muawiyah’s channel on YouTube, we find his recorded poetry, including poems about Sultan Qaboos that seem to have been written after he was released. They might be a subtle attempt to reconcile with a man who has remained untouched by overthrow and revolution. But the poet’s repentance was not accepted; if the Sultanate refrained from arresting him again, prisons do not respect borders. Countries like Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, before and after the Gulf Security Agreement, have the ability to take over an issue like this. Muawiyah’s visit was the perfect opportunity to discipline the neighbor’s child and to settle the score with a young author for his criticism of “the authorities of the Emirates and the state symbols”. Muawiyah’s family did not know where in the Emirates he was imprisoned. Talk was that he was being tortured.

Author Fatimah Alshidi sees her colleague al-Rawahi as an example of “the phenomenon of personal and text abuse”, fluctuating between “acceptance, refusal, overt compliance, and internal departure”. Al-Rawahi is now waiting for his court hearing coming in October, after it had been postponed yet again. Despite the seriousness of his statements, the Sultanate’s literati have not completely given up on Muawiyah. They have released a statement requesting his release, and some of them have continued to write articles and blog posts about him.

Ghermezi

Ayat al-Ghermezi

Poet of the Perpetual Revolution

The Gulf prisons are not just for agitators and modernists. Often times the poet in prison is a poet who works in the vernacular, like Mohammed Ben Alzib, who has spent 15 years in prison because of a sensational poem about the Tunisian revolution; or the poet might be a young girl like Ayat al-Ghermezi who was imprisoned for a year in Bahrain because of the “Dawwar” poems (the Pearl Roundabout, where the protests broke out in the February, 2011 revolution). Then there is the tale of the Saudi poet, Adel Lobad, nicknamed “Poet of the Revolution”, who was detained in 2012 and sentenced to 13 years in jail.

Lobad

Adel Lobad

Lobad’s latest arrest was his fourth, but his prison saga started a few decades back when he joined the “Vanguard Messengers Movement”, a “Shiite Movement” , many of whose members ended up in Syria before King Fahd “pardoned” them. Lobad was one of those who came back, but the Qatif demonstrations in 2011 and the arrest of Nimr al-Nimr brought Lobad back to his place as the “Movement Poet”. The Saudi authorities sentenced him to “five years for information crimes, three years for passport forgery – 30 years ago – and five years of back-to-back penalties”.

The Immigrant and the Sin of Poetry

In January of 2015, another poet – one who had not participated in demonstrations or badmouthed a ruler – was arrested. His name is Ashraf Fayadh. He is a Palestinian who moved his family to live in Saudi Arabia twenty years ago. His arrest garnered some outcry at the beginning, but the majority were silenced by fear of being charged with atheism, a charge Fayadh was facing. A reader filed a complaint against the poet, accusing him of spreading atheism through his book, “Instructions Within”, which had been published in 2008 by Dar Alfarabi. The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice was behind the imprisonment this time, not the Security Service or Intelligence Service. They interrogated him and talked to him about Islam; they asked him about his long hair and his photos on the internet with his female colleagues, artists and authors. The charge had nothing to do with the text, but with its author who was full of pride at the time because of his recent participation in the Venice Biennale, and he had just organized an exhibit for young artists.

After his arrest, Fayadh’s father spoke to some media outlets in an attempt to explain his son’s situation. He said that “a citizen quarreled with [his] son and filed these spiteful charges, demonstrating the morality of a barbarian, even if the charges would have been dismissed.” More than a year passed after Fayadh’s arrest, and the charges against him diversified shifted, and the date set for his trial changed with the judges assigned to his case. There is nothing left to see now but the interpretation of a reader who does not yet believe in the author’s death.

Source: http://raseef22.com/politics/2015/10/04/poets-in-prison-in-the-gulf/
Copyright ©: 2015 – Raseef 22

  • UPDATE: Somehow I had attributed this article to the wrong author, my apologies to Mona Kareem. I encourage you to visit her bilingual (Arabic/English) blog at http://monakareem.blogspot.com/

[translated] The Press and Despotism on the Anniversary of Samir Kassir’s Assassination

By Tammam Hanaydi

On this date ten years ago at 10:45 AM, explosives planted beneath a car in the Ashrafieh district of Beirut exploded, taking the life of the car’s owner, Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian journalist and author, Samir Kassir.

It was part of a series of political assassinations throughout Lebanon. If those assassinations specifically targeted politicians and journalists, bringing to mind images from the civil war, they also gave journalists back some of their importance, something they thought they had lost since the Arab states fell under the power of the “exclusive leader”.

As a matter of principle, dictatorships and telling the truth are not compatible. A dictator cannot admit his mistakes and cannot tolerate people who hold differing opinions. If we wanted to find some evidence to back this up, we can step back to the twentieth century. We find a perfectly clear example of the reality of the struggle between despotism and the truth in the events of May 6, 1916. On the orders of Jamal Pasha “the Butcher”, hangman’s nooses throughout Damascus and Beirut played host to a number of politicians, authors, journalists, and poets who had expressed their opposition to Ottoman occupation. This event led to both countries marking the date as Martyrs’ Day, remembered to this day.

There is no end to proof of this struggle in Lebanon. Following its independence, at 1:00 AM on May 8, 1958, an armed man entered the office of Nasib al-Matni, shot and killed him. Al-Matni was the Editor-in-Chief and owner of The Telegraph at that time and had spent years as a voice of dissent against the authorities, since the days of President Bechara El Khoury who had been forced to step down by public opinion in the year after a three-day general strike in response to Al-Matni’s trial in 1952. Al-Matni held to his chosen path. He stood firmly against President Camille Chamoun until he was assassinated, and that assassination, attributed to Chamoun’s supporters, triggered the 1958 revolution in Lebanon.

On May 16, 1966, another prominent journalist’s pen was silenced forever; Kamel Mroueh, who had started the Al Hayat newspaper in a room at the Annahar newspaper building. Mroueh was a prominent journalist in his time, considered one of the most courageous. These epitaphs may have come to him because of the title he chose for his column in Al-Hayat: “Have your say and go”. In addition to Al-Hayat, Mroueh founded the Daily Star and Beyrouth-Matin. He was also part of the movement to breathe new life into the work of journalists; he was an innovator in writing a brief opening editorial. Mroueh continued to press for the publication of truth in the age of Nasserism, when, though many have debated the appropriateness of political choices being made, the environment was nothing short of an “age of state police”. A young Nasserite called Adnan Soltani walked into Mroueh’s office and assassinated him.

The Lebanese Civil War followed, bringing this clash with it, and a new list of journalists as targets. At the forefront of these writers were Selim Lawzi and Riad Taha. Selim Lawzi was assassinated on March 4, 1980. He had been known for his opposition to the Syrian regime after it had occupied Lebanon. Lawzi was the founder of Al-Hawadess Newspaper, though he started out working as a writer for radio serials and the Near East radio broadcast in 1944. Later he worked for a magazine called Roza Al-Youssef in Egypt. He also worked as a correspondent for two other magazines, Al-Musawar and Elkawakeb. Lawzi moved to London during the civil war in order to escape repeated threats to himself and his family. Then he decided to go back to Lebanon in order to help support his mother. He was kidnapped on the airport road, and his body was found a few days later, horribly disfigured.

On July 23 of that same year, it was Riad Taha’s turn; gunmen fired dozens of rounds into his car in Beirut. At the time of his death he was the president of the Lebanese Journalists Union. Riad Taha was a prominent journalist for Asharq al-Awsat. He founded a number of media organizations, like Akhbar al-‘Aalam, Al-Bilad, and Al-Kifah. He was the first to set up an official Arabic news agency, the Orient News Agency. Taha was one of the voices calling for moderation and for people to set aside their differences. He was known for holding reconciliation summits for the different parties in conflict during the war in Lebanon; it was for this reason many believe he was killed.

The war in Lebanon finally came to an end, but the struggle between the press and party power – the gangs – is eternal. Assassination once again took center stage in 2005. It started with Samir Kassir, author of brash and daring articles. His articles, along with the pivotal role he played in the creation of the Intifada of Independence (also called the Cedar Revolution), were the main reason his life was taken in such a barbaric way. But Kassir was not the last; on December 12, 2005, journalist Gebran Tueni was assassinated by a car bomb as he was driving through Mkalles.

Tueni was one of the most important names to stand in opposition to the Syria’s “Era of Heredity” over Lebanon. He was the scion of a family with proud ties to the press. Gebran, his grandfather, established one of the largest Arabic newspapers, Annahar, and was a famous writer in his time. His father, Ghassan Tueni, following his father’s example, established himself as a journalist, a politician, and parliamentarian. One of the unusual points that might be worth mentioning is that Annahar stood in the gap between East and West Beirut during the civil war, in a position that seemed to confirm the neutral role that the press plays in the world. Ghassan Tueni confirmed this when he expressed his support for his son Gebran by calling for “spite to be buried with [his] son”.

The media has not been spared from being targeted in Lebanon or anywhere else, even if some of its professional journalists have been rescued from attempts to assassinate or kidnap them. Today, remembering the assassination of Samir Kassir, the situation is no different in the struggle burning between those who hold the torch of truth and those who walk in the darkness of despotism.

[H/T Raseef22 http://raseef22.com/life/2015/06/03/in-memory-of-samir-kassir-journalism-and-tyranny/%5D

How much do Arabs read, and what do they read?

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated April 23rd as World Book Day. Raseef22 is taking this occasion to reexamine the numbers that are so telling about the status of reading in the Arab World today.

How much do Arabs read?

According to the 2003 “Human Development Report” issued by UNESCO, an average Arab reads far less than one book; it takes 80 people combined to complete one book in a year. In comparison, an average European reads 35 books per year, and an Israeli reads 40.

The 2011 Report on Cultural Development issued by the Arab Thought Foundation stated that Arabs read for an average of six minutes per year, while Europeans read 200 hours annually.

The numbers vary from one report to another concerning the amount of reading in the Arab world. A 2008 report prepared by Synovate, a multinational market research firm, said that Egyptians and Moroccans spend 40 minutes per day reading newspapers and magazines, compared to 35 minutes in Tunisia, 34 minutes in Saudi Arabia, and 31 minutes in Lebanon. Concerning reading books, the Lebanese spend 588 minutes reading per month compared to 540 minutes in Egypt, 506 minutes in Morocco, and 378 minutes in Saudi Arabia. These numbers reflect a more positive situation than those reported previously. The difference is that the latter set of numbers includes reading the Qur’an. The earlier numbers only count reading literature and disregard reading newspapers, magazines, textbooks, files and reports for work, and books in the entertainment category.

How many books to Arabs produce?

The UNESCO report concludes that the Arab world translates 1/5 of the books translated by the small nation of Greece. Nearly 10,000 books have been translated into Arabic between the end of Al-Ma’mun’s rule (813-833 a.d.) in the Abbasid Caliphate and the current age. This number is equal to the number of books translated by Spain in a single year.

In the first five years of the 1980s 4.4 books were translated for every million Arabs (less than one book per million Arabs per year). In Hungary, the number was 519 books per million; in Spain it was 920 books per million.

Why?

The Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) released a statement reporting that the illiteracy rate in the Arab world is 19.73%, with a huge disparity between men and women; women make up 60.60% of the illiterate population. If we add to this the fact that millions of Arabs live in poverty, and are concerned only with meeting their primary needs and not with purchasing books, some of the factors in the full picture become clearer.

Moreover, there is an idea that connects the desire to read with the nature of the political system in place. It is said that where liberty prospers, the number of readers increases. In democratic societies, the individual citizen is seen as an important factor in public life. So, even if it is only a small amount, individuals care about cultural and political output. That is why the numbers about reading in the age in which political ideology prospered among the educated in the Arab World were far greater than those today. And now, because most Arabs have handed their futures over to fate and feel that participation in the public arena is futile, the concern for reading has regressed.

I translated this article from http://raseef22.com/culture/2015/04/23/reading-habits-in-the-arab-world/