The mentees selected for the 2022 Emerging Translator Mentorships Programme were announced by the National Centre for Writing (NCW) at an event held on International Translation Day:
There are eleven mentorships in eleven different languages, including an Arabic mentorship, led by Sawad Hussain.
The Arabic mentee, Salma Harland ,is an Egyptian-born, UK-based literary translator who works between Arabics and English. She holds an MA in Literature and Philosophy from the University of Sussex, a PGCert in Translation and Interpreting from the American University in Cairo, and a BA in Translation from October 6 University.
Salma translates “literature, philosophy, and everything in between, but she has a particular passion for pre-Nahda and (post)modern Arabic poetry.” Her literary translations have appeared or are forthcoming in Ancient Exchanges, ArabLit Quarterly, Eurolitkrant, Jadaliyya, Romman Magazine, Turjoman, among others.
Salma will work, in particular, on translating Kushajim.
She wrote, in her translator’s note introducing the three Kushajim poems she translated for our SONG issue:
Abu ’l-Fath Mahmud ibn al-Husain ibn ’l-Sanadi ibn Shahik, also known as Kushajim, is a celebrated tenth-century poet and philologer contemporary with al-Mutannabi. Originally from Ramla in Palestine (near contemporary Tel Aviv), Kushajim lived in Jerusalem, Damascus, Baghdad, and Cairo before finally settling in Aleppo. He served Abu Muhammad al-Hasan ibn Abu ’l-Haija’ Abdullah ibn Hamdan al-Taghlibi, more commonly known by his epithet Nasir al-Dawla, as a court poet before also serving his brother Ali, commonly known as Sayf al-Dawla. Kushajim wrote extensively on music, hunting, food, and chess, among other themes. His known works include Adab an-Nadim (The Necessary Qualities for a Boon Companion), Al-Masa’id wa ’l-Matarid (Snares and Game), a collection of Epistles, and a diwan of poems. Despite being considered the epitome of excellence in literature at his time, most of Kushajim’s works are yet to be translated into English. He died in A.H. 360 (A.D. 970).
In one of his longer poems, Kushajim alludes to some classical Arabic motifs, such as the night, the desert, ghazal, al-wuquf ’ala’l-atlal (literally “standing by the ruins,” where the poet draws inspiration from the abandoned places of his past), madih (praise), and hija’ (satire), before concluding:
In his Adab an-Nadim (Etiquette of the Boon-Companion), he defines adab as the necessary qualities of a courtier, which include the etiquettes of sharing wine and food, singing and playing various musical instruments, entertaining the caliph with nard (a type of backgammon) and dice, and holding forth with good conversation. In a chapter of the same book titled Bab al-Sama’ (“On Listening”), he writes:
“Song caters to the soul without the body, distracting it from what is good for the body, where the pleasures of food and drink cater to the body without the soul.”
وذلك أنَّ الغناءَ شيءٌ يخصُّ النفسَ دون الجسم فيشغلها عن مصَالحِ الجسم، كما أنَّ لذةَ المأكولِ والمشروبِ تخص الجسمَ دون النفس
Of all the musical instruments, Kushajim evidently thought most highly of the oud, on which he wrote the majority of his music-themed poems. He writes:
We look forward to reading more of Salma’s work.
More translations by Salma Harland:
Three Poems by Sargon Boulus Award-Winning Emad Abu Saleh
Monday Poetry: Ghareeb Iskander’s ‘Great Perplexity’