Renowned Syrian director, actor, screenwriter, and author Hatem Ali died of a heart attack on Tuesday at the age of 58.
"Like a visual representation of the unconscious it is a big unknowable that flows without a break, wave after wave, thought after thought, bearing the words of the poem.”
"Too frequently, I think, translators give in to the idea that a foreign text needs to retain a lot of that foreignness—this is Venuti’s foreignizing versus domesticating debate."
"In Germany, literature is very much a business, and not everyone understands this idea of literature being so capitalist."
"I am a woman, so I want to depict women -- and it depends on the woman, but in the period of the war in Syria, I felt like women were affected so much more than men, and I wanted to express that."
"A lot of the translators also have tight control of everything. That's the biggest problem -- it's not even about them changing things in translation, it's that they depend on relationships and friendships with writers they know fit their narratives, and it has nothing to do with whether they've written a good text."
"Thomas Mann was a refugee, but we don't remember him as a “German writer” or a “refugee writer.” The classification is problematic. Unfortunately, when you are under these organizations, there is not much space for criticism of this label. We need to be more unified when making these critiques."
"We, as Syrians, are allowed to be “witnesses”: we can give testimony, we can tell our own stories, but it is always at a low level of knowledge, below the level of theorizing or conceptualizing about phenomena. In my work, I try to challenge that."
"I think one of the issues we have is that, in the US, the book industry is, well, very industrial. Most editors know exactly what they're looking for, what would fit with their house’s identity, their target readership, their marketing strategy, their catalog of the following Spring."
"Also, there is much more ignorance about Arabic and Arab literature, and Arab countries, than the ignorance of us about the rest of the world. We have dictators, we have a stupid education system, but here there is no excuse for them, because the information is there."
"I’ve started calling my practice a 'practice of necessity' because these shifts that were forced on me, forced on my identity, apply a shift to my practice and I have to adapt. I’m always responding to the urgent matters around me."
In the last five years, there has been a surge of interest in Syrian writing in German translation. In this series of interviews, writers, poets, publishers, and artists in Berlin talk about their experience with the publishing industry in Germany and beyond.