I wrote a bit about the difficulty of translating humor last week; the idea seemed worth pursuing, so I followed that with an essay for Al Masry Al Youm. One of the most obvious differences in the books I looked at was whether or not authors chose to use footnotes.
I didn’t use this quote in AMAY, but it’s worth reading, from gifted translator Hosam Aboul-ela:
I have done most of my work with trade presses–like aflame– and so my editors trained me not to like footnotes, but so did teaching in an English department and seeing my students go from African to Indian to Caribbean fictions and then suddenly having to read a long history of the Arabic novel by an Orientalist in the intro to every piece of Arabic fiction on the syllabus. It makes those Arabic texts look wonky and separate from the world of literature. I also feel that Arabs were almost never been seen as literary people in the America I grew up in, so I have my own personal and internal motivations for approaching it the way I do.