Yesterday, Words Without Borders launched a new series Close-Up: An Experiment in Reviewing Translation, a response to the dearth of book reviews that take translators and translation into account:

In the launch conversation, “Close Up” reviewers Lily Meyer and Mona Kareem talked with WWB about what it means to have a translation-centric book review, and what sorts of translation criticism are necessary and possible.

With regards to translation and cultural competence, Kareem notes:

Cultural competence is a big question for Arabic literature in translation, as well as other Third World literatures, especially if we consider the fact that many translations of Arabic literature are published by university presses and are therefore produced and consumed within the social sciences, influencing both writers and translators to choose works of an anthropological nature that can lend themselves to classroom discussions of faraway cultures.

Also, Kareem, on reviews of translated works:

It is absurd that “as if it weren’t a translation” is a common statement in reviews when translated texts make up the core of the Western canon. If we are to discuss how critics in the US, UK, and France perceive works in translation, then we shall return to Lily’s proposal for a translation critic. You cannot have people who regularly review American literature dictate the worth of a new work in translation. They do not have the range to deal with such works, simply because their reviews are often based on their local literary economies.

You can find the whole discussion at WWB.

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