A Bicultural Love of the Written Word: John Barton in Conversation with Thoraya El-Rayyes

From The Malahat Review website.


Thoraya El-Rayyes’ translation from Arabic of Hisham Bustani’s “Mirror, Mirror” appears in At Home in Translation: Canadians Translate the World, The Malahat Review’s Autumn 2014 theme issue on literary translation in Canada. The story is drawn from “The Perception of Meaning”, a larger collection of Bustani’s work that El-Rayyes has translated into English. In manuscript, it recently won the University of Arkansas Arabic Translation Award and will be published by Syracuse University Press.

John Barton: I am delighted to have had the opportunity to publish your translation of Hisham Bustani’s “Mirror, Mirror” in “At Home in Translation.” Can you provide a thumbnail sketch of Hisham Bustani’s career, his writing, and his place in Jordanian literary community?

Thoraya El-Rayyes: I wouldn’t say there is a Jordanian literary community as such. Partly because Jordan is a very small country (with a smaller population than New Jersey!), but also because—to a great extent—the Arabic literary community transcends national borders. Writers in Arab countries not only share the same language but also have a shared history. Hundreds of years under the rule of the Ottoman and European empires left behind many common traces in these countries, and there have been various pan-nationalist and religious movements that have connected people across the region.

Read the full dialogue…