What’s the difference between the reception of Arabic literature in French vs. in English, in Spanish, in Polish, in Malayalam? ArabLit has been asking leading translators in different languages:
Trade relations between Kerala and Arabs began even before emergence of Islam in India. After that, Islam became the second-largest religion in this overpopulated southern Indian coastal state. There are over 10,000 primary Arabic madrassas, or religious schools, more than 500 Arabic parallel colleges and four universities that have Arabic departments, through which thousands of Arabic graduates and post-graduates are coming out every year.
…I’m sure For Bread Alone by the Moroccan writer Mohamed Choukri, in a 1982 translation by the Moroccan Hispanicist Abdellah Djbilou, has enjoyed widespread distribution and popularity. This is due in part to the prologue by Spanish writer Juan Goytisolo, someone who has done a lot for the translation of modern Arabic literature into Spanish.
Except for Mahmoud Darwish – who used to sell more books in France in the 2000s than any living French poet! – it is very difficult to sell anything but novels. And the more a novel conforms to what the French audience expects from an “Arabic novel,” the better it will sell.
Yes, for sure there’s an interest among Italian readers and publishers. Italian publishers are paying attention to Arabic literature.
We mostly translate belles-lettres or histories of women hurt by Islam or Arabs (unfortunately), but everything depends on the personal taste of a translator. That is why we had Mahfuz’s works translted long before he was granted a Nobel prize.
If you want to contribute to this series, or know someone who should, please contact me at mlynxqualey – at – gmail – dot – com.