Inaugural Dubai Translation Conference Opens Today with History, Legal, ‘Wow Factor’ and More

The first annual Dubai Translation Conference — organized by the Emirates Literature Foundation in partnership with The Executive Council of Dubai — opens today:

dtc-logoThe conference, set to run through the 22nd, is a star-studded affair. Today at 1:30 p.m., for instance, Booker-shortlisted author, activist, and acclaimed translator Ahdaf Soueif will speak alongside towering, multi-award-winning Arabic-English translator Humphrey Davies. Their talk is called “The Wow Factor,” and, in the program description, it asks:

How easy is it to select what books would be appealing in another language? What criteria should be used? Would the book selling well be the only critera for consideration? Is the criticism that current novels in Arabic are overly sentimental and poorly crafted justified? What process of scrutiny does Arabic literature receive prior to being published?

Later in the day, Firas Al Shaer, Leslie McLoughlin, Clive Holes, and Michael Cooperson will talk about “The Untranslateable: Algebra and Zero to Selfies and Google,” and the evening program boasts a discussion with massively popular Algerian novelist Ahlem Mosteghanemi and translator Nancy Roberts. It should be interesting, as Mosteghanemi was notoriously unhappy with some of her earlier translations.

The day’s seminars compete with translation workshops, given — on the first day — by Tariq Abdulsalam Omer, Alyazia Khalifa, and Nancy Roberts.

The second and third days have a broad range of practical and theoretical seminars and workshops, ranging from a discussion of possible careers, to a presentation on moving between the roles of writer and translator, to a workshop led by Philip Kennedy on whether literary translation should follow established canons or be a broader act of restoration. (We can guess which side the Library of Arabic Literature’s General Editor will fall on.)

Emirates LitFest Director Isobel Abulhoul, in a news release about the conference, said she hoped the conference would be fun:

Too often the field of translation is seen as dull but we hope this conference will highlight its value and importance. Reading literature in translation opens up new worlds and broadens minds, subtly educating the reader on different cultures and points of view. Young people who read regularly develop greater degrees of empathy and tolerance; reading really is food for the soul. Translators are a vital part of the process.

The full progam is available online.