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The Atlas is proud to be partnering with the Hay Festival's Beirut39 contest, celebrating Beirut's year as UNESCO World Book Capital, to find the hottest authors under 40 of Arabic origin. Nominations are open until August 24th, 2009.

Monday, March 2, 2009

"I am a translator. I am a prisoner of your thoughts."

Emily Meredith at the Kaleej Times reports Ibrahim al-Koni's insights into the fraught process of translation from Arabic (via Russian, English, French and back to Arabic in one particularly mind-boggling instance) from the International Festival of Literature in Dubai.

Al-Koni offers a fascinating account of his work with German translator Hartmut Fahndrich,
a scholar whose work originally focused on translating medieval Arabic medical texts rather than modern literature, for 15 years now. The two collaborate on translations, particularly when Fahndrich has doubts about what the text conveys.

“When Fahndrich has his doubts regarding a sentence, we must meet,” Al Koni said. “Many translators are not as conscientious, nor do they have the luxury of a well-established relationship with the author.”

“You as an author can write whatever you want,” he reminisced about Fahndrich telling him, “But I am a translator. I am a prisoner of your thoughts.”
Thanks to Literary Saloon for tipping us off to this article.

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