Cairo’s First-ever Translation Slam: Judge for Yourself

On Tuesday night, Cairo finally saw its first-ever translation slam, hosted by the translator and AUCP editor R. Neil Hewison and featuring translators Adam Talib and Randa Aboubakr. Hewison was kind enough to YouTube a video of the whole two-hour event and also send along the translations:

Hewison adds that he can’t take the credit, that the British Council’s Cathy Costain “not only YouTubed it, she live-streamed it as it happened, and we had 50 viewers online, in addition to the 30 people in the room.”

For those who want to cut to the translation, there is a whole booklet with the original, the two translations, and a line-by-line comparison. I’ve posted just a snippet below for your edification and entertainment. And, while you’re at it, why not try your own version?

The original:

قام عن المائدة لیغسل یده على الحوض، دلك كفیھ أكثر من مرة، لیزیل رائحة السمك المشوي،
وحرك الفرشاة بالمعجون بین أسنانھ لیسحب فتات الفجل والجرجیر المتراكمة على ثنایاه.
– یا ساتر على دي ریحة.
أشعل سیجارة كلیوباترا، ولم یلق عود الثقاب في المنفضة التي سحبھا معھ إلى غرفة النوم،
وضعھا على الكومودینو، ومدد طولھ على السریر، یشد نفس الدخان بشراھة، ویحرك عود
الثقاب بین أسنانھ لیخرج الفتات. نادى على زوجتھ من الداخل: ھاتِ الشاي ھنا یا زینب.
المرأة مذعورة منذ أخبرھا بحكایة جاره الأستاذ دسوقي. كان قد دخل علیھا فوجدھا قد أعدت
أطباق السمك المشوي، ووزعت الأرغفة على الطاولة التي تحلق حولھا الأولاد یعاركون
جوعھم بإنتظار الأب.
قالت لھ مستنكرة: تأخرت على غیر العادة.

[Read the whole text.]

The opening of Adam Talib’s translation:

He got up from the table and walked over to the sink to wash his hands. He had to scrub his palms a few times to get rid of the smell of grilled fish and then brush his teeth to get rid of the little pieces of radish and rocket stuck between them. “Good lord. That smell!”

He lit a cigarette—a Cleopatra—but rather than toss the matchstick into the ashtray he’d brought to the bedroom with him, he set it down on the bedside table and lay back on the bed. He took deep drags of his cigarette and picked his teeth with the end of the matchstick. Then he called out to his wife, “Zeinab. Bring me my tea in here.” She’d been in a state ever since he’d told her the story of their neighbor Dessuqi.

That evening he’d come home to find she’d already finished grilling the fish and laying out the bread on the table where the kids were sat, restless with hunger, waiting for father to return home. “You’re late,” she said. “That’s not like you.”

[Read the whole text.]

The opening of Randa Aboubakr’s translation:

He stood up from the table and went to wash his hands in the sink, repeatedly scrubbing them so as to rub out the smell of grilled fish. Then he moved the toothbrush, dipped in toothpaste, up and down his teeth, to remove bits of radish and rucola caught up between them.

—What a stink!

He took a cigarette out of his local cigarette pack and lit it up, but did not cast the match in the ashtray, which he took along to the bedroom. He put the ashtray on the nightstand and stretched out on the bed, voraciously drawing on the cigarette and picking his teeth with the match stick so as to remove yet more food crumbs. He then yelled at his wife from the bedroom: Bring the tea here, Zaynab!

The woman has been terrified since he told her the story of Mr. Desuqi, their neighbor. When he returned home, she had already laid down the plates of grilled fish and the pita bread on the table. The kids had already been seated there, fighting their hunger and waiting for the return of their Dad.

She said disapprovingly:

—You are unusually late.

[Read the whole text.]