Mapping Translation: Into and Out of Arabic

The big study that resulted from a number of translation reports — into and out of Arabic, Turkish, and Hebrew — is now available on the Anna Lindh Foundation’s website: A Mapping of Translation in the Euro-Mediterranean Region.”

Anna Lindh folks note in the release: “The study takes into account the entire chain of translation: writers, translators, publishers, booksellers, libraries, translation programmes, media, and covers literary translation in its broadest sense, including part of the translation of human and social sciences, as well as theatre and children’s literature.” Although with an emphasis on larger languages.

I have only given it a first skim, but there is much to chew over and much that was expected. It is certain that translation both out of and into Arabic, for instance, is on the uptick, for different reasons. Into Arabic, the range of private-sector operations doing translation has increased: “It is incontestable that translation into Arabic has been growing in the last decade in all domains.” Out of Arabic, well, you know.

What’s being translated?

Translator-scholar Richard Jacquemond made an interesting point about translations into Arabic, and that is that “non-fiction (…) dominates more and more, that is to say, not only what bibliographies classify and a variety of human and social sciences, but also what in French is called the ‘livre pratique’ or in English ‘self help books’.”

This is not true in the reverse, where it is literature and religion that dominate translation out of Arabic. (Unfortunately, there are no statistics for English, as only data on literary works was gathered.)

The report talked about the heroism necessary to publish translations well:

Except when limited to bestsellers of global commercial production, when one is a publisher, translation is never insignificant. It is a matter of a difficult bet which obliges the publisher to integrate other key actors into his trade: the translator or advisers for his editorial choices, the translator him or her self, the indispensible editor for the translation revision, even the interpreter, when it comes to promoting the translated book. To publish translations (well) is, in a certain manner, to construct a network, based on a shared understanding of the quality stakes and relations of trust, around a language, a literature, a field of knowledge or a current of thought. The collective dimension is at the heart of the process of publication of a translated work.

There were also some not very shocking observations about the presentation of translated books:

Book covers make an immoderate use of the figure of the woman in a veil, of the man in a gallabiya or in a keffieh, cupola in Istanbul or the alleyways of the medina.

And they noted the problem of library acquisitions. For instance, in France, “There isn’t really any acquisition policy for Arab authors, in translation or in Arabic, in French libraries.”

I doubt there is a system in many US library systems, either. Note that my previous attempts to seek out Mahmoud Darwish translations in US libraries have turned up almost exclusively the works of…Nonie Darwish.

There is much more to turn up in this study: I barely digested the section on theater, for instance. No reason to wait for me, though. Here it is.

I like diagrams, even when the data is not surprising: