Don’t Miss: First Ever Arabic-English Translation Slam

Please note: “In consideration of the events happening in Egypt, the British Council announces the postponement of the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference events, including the translation slam, scheduled to take place in Cairo on 7 and 8 December. “

Thanks to the indefatigable (except perhaps by Cairo traffic) Cathy Costain, Arabic-English translation is getting its first ever* knock-down, drag-out, no-holds-barred, bare-knuckled translation slam.

Neato, right?

In the one corner, we have Adam Talib (@2illit_adab)translator of Mekkawi Said’s Cairo Swan Song, Fadi Azzam’s Sarmada, Khairy Shalaby’s The Hashish Waiter, co-translator of Raja Alem’s The Dove’s Necklace, and current faculty at the American University in Cairo. You can read a Q&A about his thoughts on translating Shalaby here. And read an excerpt from his translation of Sarmada online.

In the other corner, we have Randa Aboubakr,  professor of English and comparative literature at Cairo University. Aboubakr has published a number of studies on English literature, Egyptian colloquial poetry, sub-Saharan African literature, comparative literature, cultural theory, and translation. She’s also published translations both into English (Ahmad Bakhiet’s Laila: The Honey of Solitude) and into Arabic (Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club). Read her translation of Abnudi’s “Yamna” on Jadaliyya.

The moderator: The estimable R. Neil Hewison, translator and editor at American University of Cairo Press.

The rules: If you’ve not yet been to or experienced a translation slam, well! They have been pioneered by PEN. And, in PEN’s words, a slam is where translators “take the spotlight and test their linguistic mettle against each other in a duel to the translation death.”

I’ve not yet heard of any actual deaths that resulted from a slam; I’m pretty sure killing your opponent would be against the rules. See video of one here. Another here. And see one of their online slams here.

The text: An excerpt from Yusuf Abu Rayya’s not-yet-translated novel ‘Ashiq al-hayyThe esteemed Mr. Hewison is particularly familiar with the texture and challenges of Abu Rayya, as he’s the translator of the really wonderful Wedding Night.

The when: Friday, December 7 at 3.30 p.m. (insha’allah).

The where: The British Council, 192 El Nil Street in Agouza.

The sponsors: This event is presented as part of the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference (December 7-8 2012).

The afterglow: Insha’allah we will have the texts, and video, here on ArabLit so you can compare, contrast, back-seat drive your own version, and much more. If you’d like to share your photos, impressions, or other souvenirs from the event, please contact me at mlynxqualey – at – gmail – dot – com.

Don’t forget: to thank Cathy Costain. And bring your friends. And may there be many more.

*I think it’s first-ever, anyhow. Please do correct me. I like corrections.


    1. Sorry, as noted at top, this event was postponed. When it is rescheduled, it will certainly be videoed and the video posted here.

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