Yesterday, Jordanian novelist and publisher Elias Farkouh died of a heart attack at 72:
Farkouh — winner of a wide range of literary awards — wrote and published over the course of five decades. A few of his works have appeared in English translation, most recently in the magazine The Common, where Jordanian writer Hisham Bustani is an editor.
1) In 2019 The Common’s summer interns interviewed Farkouh in “We Write Our Own Past: 10 Questions with Elias Farkouh.” He said, of translation:
As a writer, I am always happy to have my works translated into a different language, because a writer always needs a reader. The more the writer’s readership expands beyond the geography of their own language, the more meaningful their work will be. For me, translation is not synonymous with fame; instead it is a tool to emphasize the necessity of communication between different peoples, leading to more awareness and more understanding of the other.
What worries me when my works are translated is the fact that they are rendered in a language peculiar to me. Translations might not be able to accurately transfer the implicit meanings that live in the nuances of the words I use. I think my works require a lot of effort to translate.
2) Elias Farkouh’s short story “A Man I Don’t Know” was translated by maia tabet for The Common. It opens:
As soon as he elbowed me in the ribs, whipping my averted face toward the pitch-black corner, I thought I heard him saying, “Frightened, eh?”
3) “Dolls and Angels,” translated by William Hutchins, was published in Words Without Borders. In it, Hannan’s life transforms:
Hannan didn’t realize how late it was or even that it was late. Today was different. It was an extraordinary moment in every respect. Her mother was no longer the woman she knew, and the neighborhood wasn’t the same one that she had always found outside her doorway.
4) “Amman’s Birds Sweep Low,” translated by Hutchins, appeared in Madinah: City Stories from the Middle East, published by Comma Press. It opens:
“In the early evening, Amman’s sunset horizon is an astonishing, bleeding cloud.”
5) “Creation,” translated by Hutchins, appeared in Banipal. An excerpt from Farkouh’s Columns of Foam also appeared in Banipal. “Creation” opens with the question:
“What fills temporal and spatial voids?”
6) There are two chapters from Farkouh’s novel Asrar Sa’at Al Raml, or Secrets of the Hourglass, in the anthology Snow in Amman.