By Essayed Taha
Rana Hayeck is Editorial Director of the Naufal imprint at the Hachette Antoine publishing house. She earned her bachelor’s in law from Saint Joseph University in Beirut and is a literary translator, specializing in translating works from English and French into Arabic, with notable authors such as Michel Houellebecq and Patrick Modiano in her repertoire.
She spent a decade working as a cultural and features journalist (2000-2010), before transitioning to a career in editing and books in 2011, which continues into the present day.
Can you define your role as an editor? What do editors do? And what don’t they do?
The editor serves as the writer’s fresh perspective, their initial and informed reader armed with the necessary editing skills. They maintain the critical distance required to identify any flaws, should they exist, in the text. The editor acts as a vigilant guardian, ensuring the narrative’s consistency, free from any literary or narrative gaps concerning elements like time, characters, dramatic progression, and more. They also safeguard the text from historical, political, or social inaccuracies. In this aspect, the boundaries are well-defined, leaving no room for confusion.
However, matters become more intricate when dealing with linguistic expression, formatting, and stylistic nuances. Here, editorial intervention becomes delicate. The editor must strike a delicate balance between making necessary improvements and preserving the text’s tone, identity, and the author’s unique style. They propose modifications, which can range from deleting paragraphs, reorganizing sections, to refining phrasing and eliminating redundancy, among other stylistic adjustments. Yet they only impose such changes in exceptional circumstances where no other option is feasible.
Do you think there are specific challenges for editors working in Arabic? Or if there are misunderstandings that authors have about the editor’s role?
Certainly, editors in the Arab world encounter significant challenges, some related to the culture of editing and others tied to the linguistic richness of the material they work on. The editing profession is not as prevalent in the Arab world, and it is often confused with linguistic proofreading, a more common practice with a longer history. Arab writers, in general, are not accustomed to having their work scrutinized. They view writing as a personal endeavor, guarding their texts closely and may be cautious about allowing others to edit them. This protective stance is understandable and reflects their dedication to their work, which is culturally linked to the reverence for literature in Arab culture.
This is where the editor’s role becomes crucial, equipped with the necessary tools and the need to earn the writer’s trust to establish a positive collaboration. Another challenge is linguistic, concerning the richness of the Arabic language and its ability to convey a single sentence or meaning in countless ways. Here, the editor must be proficient in their language and open to ongoing dialogue with the writer.
What are the challenges of working with publishers?
If you’re referring to the editor’s interaction with the publisher, it represents another dimension of their role. While they collaborate with the writer on a purely literary level, their relationship with the publisher involves a more pragmatic approach in handling the product. In this context, we are not solely discussing literature; we are delving into the realm of the industry. The editor’s responsibility lies in ensuring that the work aligns with the publisher’s editorial standards and navigates the intricate landscape of business, marketing, and distribution in the Arab world. This involves considering various official and social obstacles, prohibitions, and sensitivities that can create a minefield for creative endeavors. Thus, the editor acts as the vital link between the literary text and the commercial aspects of writing.
In your opinion, why is developmental editing important?
Editing is a crucial process in refining a text. It involves trimming and polishing, adding essential value to ensure that any book presents itself in its best form. This process offers not only practical assistance but also provides psychological support to the writer.
What are your most and least favorite parts of the job?
The most exhilarating aspect of this journey is the thrill that courses through you as you embark on refining a beautiful manuscript. With each sentence, it captivates you with its profound impact. These are the delightful surprises that a new piece of writing can bestow upon you.
Above all, an editor is a lover of language. They deftly maneuver and play with words, an endlessly enjoyable endeavor. In many cases, they are writers who, for various reasons, cannot fully embrace the role of an author. Editing allows them to channel their latent talents to enrich the work of others. This is what fuels their work with fervor and an unwavering love for literature itself.
However, there’s a challenge that sometimes looms – the feeling of being an unsung hero, a silent soldier in the literary realm. This can evoke a sense of injustice or underappreciation. Yet, these are sentiments they can easily transcend, for their ardor for literature and language knows no bounds. In such cases, their love is unconditional, and they seek no validation or recognition. They wholeheartedly indulge in their passion for language and literature, anticipating nothing in return.