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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Dubai: A New Age for Translation?

One last post from Dubai, I swear: the festival has inspired a lot of coverage, with some particularly interesting discussions about translation -- both between languages, and between cultures, its rewards and difficulties.

Over at Global Voices, Ayesha Saldanha (who notices our coverage of Dubai on the blog -- thanks Ayesha!) has a great round-up of posts detailing the several cultural festivals happening in the Gulf region, including book fairs in Abu Dhabi and one in Riyadh, which featured what blogger Ruhsa calls
A noteworthy attempt [by] the Commission PR booth at the Riyadh Book Fair. […] It features examples of items that they have confiscated, photos of items found in raids and also the reasons WHY they are banned. There were also several Commission members explaining things at this fairly popular booth!
That's the Commission of the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, with whom the Ministry of Culture has to reach a compromise - including female stallholders being required to leave on days when men are allowed into the fair - to allow the fair to go ahead.

Ruhsa feels that the Commission's stall is a move towards a more transparent process of negotiation between tradition and modernity. In The Khaleej Times, there's a cracking interview with Egyptian poet, and president of Nile Culture TV, Gamal Al Shaer that discusses how these issues played out in Dubai. He commented that
Dubai is not another Singapore. It is an ambitious Arab city that builds skyscrapers, yet adheres to the traditional tent, coffee and falcons; a combination of originality and contemporariness,
a combination that also informed the poetry festival, which included classic recitations in a variety of venues (including malls) as well as more contemporary readings.

Al Shaer also shared a particular insight derived from the difficulties of presenting poetry in translation at live events, and connecting Dubai's ventures into literary culture and transcultural literature to a rich Islamic tradition of translation and cultural interchange.
“It is rather a translation of spirit rather than passionless words,” he said, hoping that the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation would adopt a regional translation project in line with the one implemented in the
 Abbasid age.

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