Ahmed Alaidy’s Being Abbas El Abd shares the sinews of Palahniuk’s Fight Club—yes—and the wounded center of other boy-lit I’ve read. It’s also, of course, Egyptian, and redeemed by a black Egyptian humor.
Certainly worth reading.
But! Because I’m an unredeemable nerd, and have recently become interested in the thornier parts of translation, I also found translator Humphrey Davies’ after-note humorous.
He muses about how one is to translate Anglicisms, such as al-boyyi frind, and notes: “Strict logic would require that these be switched into Arabic equivalents and printed in Arabic letters, but that would obviously do the reader no service. A halfway house suggestion sometimes suggests itself. Thus, al-boyyi frind has been rendered here as le boyfriend, a French Anglicism that shares with the Arabic some at least of the former’s social overtones, and similarly meeting in the Arabic as reunion.”
Ah, but it gets worse!
“But what to do when Abbas shouts “Pull-shit!”–?
Note: there is no B in Arabic, and thus most Egyptians soften “pizza” into “bizza” and so forth. In a past life, I had a four-year-old Egyptian student insist to me that the proper pronunciation is “bizza,” (his dad says), and I am quite mistaken with my hard “puh.” So much for my bedagogy.
Asks Davies: “Should we go with ‘Merde!’, as though Abbas were some kind of beret-wearing, Gauloise-smoking scion of the Francophone elite? Perish the thought! Best, in this case, to let sleeping dogs lie.”
Note: If you like Alaidy, he has new work in the latest edition of A Public Space (issue 9).
Yet another note: There are other photos online where Alaidy looks, you know, hip or whatever, but I prefer him to be a nerd like me.
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