Author Hisham Bustani and Translator Thoraya El-Rayyes on Translating, Together

From the Arabic Literature (In English) blog.

Author Hisham Bustani and translator Thoraya El-Rayyes discuss how they have worked together to translate Bustani’s stories.

Hisham BustaniArabLit: Is there something you thought would be particular challenge to a translator (English-language or otherwise) about your stories? What was it?

Hisham Bustani: There are two challenges that will face a translator who is dealing with my stories. The first is the “feel” of the story; the second is the “flow”. “Feel” is related to my use of language as a tool to convey multiple layers of meaning about the themes I address. In my writing, there is a connection between the structure of the written piece and the subject matter. The structure of writing should reflect the subject matter, as it does in the plastic arts, where the structure itself (color, texture, form) is the only tool for expressing subjects and themes. I try to translate that into literary writing. A translator has to be able to grasp that aspect and be aware of the multiple layers of meaning, to be aware of the association and tension between the subject and the structure. A translator has to be aware of the multiple meanings and the psychological burden of the words, sentences and contexts. I think this feel is clearly reflected in the English translation of my story Nightmares of the City (first published in English in The Saint Anne’s Review, Summer/Autumn 2012, republished electronically on the Arab Literature (In English) website). Thoraya was very successful in relaying this into the English version.

Read the full dialogue…