BCLT Research Seminar with Michael Cooperson – French Word Games, “Untranslatable” Arabic, and Global English
May 11, 2022 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
Al-Hariri’s Impostures is a twelfth-century collection of fifty tales written entirely in rhyme. Because of the rhyme, not to mention the riddles, puns, lipograms, and rare vocabulary, it has routinely been called untranslatable. Yet translators into Hebrew, German, and Russian have succeeded in re-creating it in their languages. A new English translation draws on the work of the OuLiPo, the French literary collective, to attempt the same in English. Michael Cooperson is Professor of Arabic at University of California, Los Angeles. He studied at Harvard and the American University in Cairo, and taught at Harvard, the Middlebury School of Arabic and Dartmouth College before joining UCLA in 1995. He has published the monographs Classical Arabic Biography: The Heirs of the Prophet in the Age of al-Ma’mūn (Cambridge University Press, 2000) and Al Ma’mun (OneWorld Books, 2005). He has also translated a number of works from Arabic and French, including Abdelfattah Kilito’s The Author and His Doubles: Essays on Classical Arabic Culture (Syracuse University Press, 2001), Khairy Shalaby’s The Time-Travels of the Man Who Sold Pickles and Sweets (American University in Cairo Press, 2010) and Jurji Zaydan’s Brothers at War (Zaidan Foundation, 2012). In 2009-10 he was Visiting Professor at Stanford University, and 2015-2017 he was Senior Research Fellow for the Library of Arabic Literature, New York University Abu Dhabi. In 2021, he won the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for translation from Arabic to English.