In Other Words: ‘Translating Egypt’s Revolution’

That’s Sarah Hawas waving, just to the left of Dr. Samia Mehrez at the podium. And I think Heba Salem is adjusting her collar. Action shot!

I’m a wee bit offended that Egypt Independent didn’t use any of my (terrible) photos, and instead went with the book’s eye-catching cover. You, I hope, are not above my photographic efforts.

Anyhow, the words from the Egypt Independent:

“This is not a project that could be begun now.” So said Dr. Samia Mehrez after the Saturday-evening launch of the book “Translating Egypt’s Revolution: The Language of Tahrir” (June 2012, AUC Press).

The book, edited by Mehrez, is composed of eight chapters, most of which originated with her “Translating Revolution” class at the American University in Cairo last spring. The chapters were authored by Professor Mehrez, ten members of the class, and writer-researcher Menna Khalil. Although the project went far beyond the classroom boundaries, Mehrez said it was motivated by the collective energy and commitment fostered within. That energy propelled them through many dark moments.

It would be difficult to spark such enthusiasm for translating Egypt’s revolution now, she said.

Nonetheless, the downtown book launch was crowded with supporters and spectators. The book is an unusual collaboration between twelve people from very different linguistic, scholarly, and cultural backgrounds. As Mehrez wrote in the introduction, the book was not crafted by a group of like-minded academics, but instead by “the poet, the musician, the technical translator, the journalist, the photographer, the security translator, the activist, the creative writer, and the teacher.”

The group worked together, and discussions about various aspects of the work went on “late into the night,” contributor Laura Gribbon said at the launch.

“This project is very emotional for all of us,” said contributor Amira Taha.

Mehrez, the head of the American University in Cairo’s Center for Translation Studies, said that initially she had thought of writing such a book herself. However, she said that — as she was teaching the translation course last spring — it became “immediately obvious” that this was “not the moment for an individual” to take on such a project.

Mehrez emphasized, in the launch as in the book’s foreword, that the translations that came out of the project were a collective effort.

The eight essays are what Mehrez called “thick translations.” They are both translations of the “language of Tahrir” — its speeches and jokes, street art and poetry — and analyses of these translations. Keep reading.

More photographic outtakes:

There were chairs and a screen set up outside in case Oriental Hall wasn’t large enough. Indeed, it was filled.
I guess this one’s kind of overexposed. But maybe it adds something to the effect? The shadow of translated-ness?

Interested in reading the book but don’t have 180LE? Take a look here.