How Jurji Zaidan (Finally) Came to English

This week in Qantara, I have a piece about the historical novels of Jurji Zaidan. Here’s a bit from the middle:

Zaidan in his 40s.
Zaidan in his 40s.

“George [Zaidan] came to me about five years ago,” Arabic literature professor and pioneering translator Roger Allen said, “because he realized that his grandfather had really been shoved aside in this process of the trying to develop a history of the Arabic novel.”

For a long time, scholars didn’t appreciate the Arabic historical novel. As a result, Zaidan was “massively underappreciated” by scholars and translators, Allen said. But, after the 1967 defeat, Arab scholars began to re-examine many things. Since then, interest in Zaidan’s work has been building.

Zaidan’s books are particularly appealing, Allen said, because, “They’re easy reads, they’re tremendous fun to translate. It’s all terrific stuff.”

Although George Zaidan said he could have worked with traditional publishers, he has chosen to self-publish with all but one of the novels. This allows him control of the project, he said. Self-publishing, for instance, left him freer “to continue Zaidan’s educational mission in the translations by including study guides in all of them as well as scholarly assessments in some.” Read the whole piece.

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