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.