They cannot be imitated in English: translating the Arabic Impostures of al-Hariri (d. 1122)
November 11, 2021 @ 5:15 pm - 6:45 pm
The best-known work of fiction in pre-modern Arabic was not the 1001 Nights but a collection of stories called Impostures. The hero is a hard-drinking preacher who can produce any kind of speech, including puns, riddles, and palindromes, on demand. Because of its over-the-top wordplay, Impostures has long been called untranslatable. Yet it has been adapted successfully into Hebrew, German, and Russian. The latest attempt is in English, and puts each of the 50 stories into a different historical, literary, or global style, from thieves’ cant to Multicultural London English. Does it work? You decide!