Happy 50th, AUC Press

Gamal Nkrumah at Al Ahram Weekly looks at the press’s first 50 years. It’s interesting, but, outside the Naguib Mahfouz phenomenon, the impact of AUC Press’s literary translations is little-examined. Apparently, their “big hitting” books are mostly the social scientific/archaeological. (And Al-Aswany, of course.)

The piece’s author, Nkrumah, hails the AUC Press staff: “They may not look it, but these men and women are on the frontline in the battle against bigotry and zealotry.”

Not (exactly) mentioned in the piece: AUC Press has helped establish a small cadre of professional Arabic-language translators; the press’s consistency allows a few to make translation into a profession and not just a passion, as it was for pioneering Denys Johnson-Davies. (Johnson-Davies is profiled this week in Al-Masry Al-Youm. We learn Yehia el-Taher Abdallah is considered by one publisher a “tramp.”)

This piece on AUC Press, also by Nkrumah, examines the relationship between Mahfouz and the press. Another happy-birthday tribute from Arab News looks at Arab authors’ desire for translation and quotes columnist Dalal al-Bizry: “The majority of writers have the feeling that what they write has no value unless it’s translated into a foreign language.”

This, I think, is the uglier side to translation in world of centers and peripheries; it can create a sort of literary exile, an Arab writer who cuts him or herself off from home, who aims for translation and thus speaks to a (wealthy) Euro-American public rather than one at home.

Yes, and I suppose all writing is a form of exile.