"To the impartial eye, the world not only seems an unlikely one-off phenomenon, but a constant strain on reason. If reason exists, that is, if a neutral reason exists. So speaks the voice from within. So speaks Joker's voice." - Jostein Gaarder

Monday, March 26, 2007

Ziqaq al-Medaq = Medaq Alley?

My early childhood was quite shattered between my Grandpa's house in Latakia, and Grandpa's house in Homs, and Dad's Bierut tiny flat.
The one thing that they all had in common was a vast library of books, Arabic books in particular.

Even, when we moved to our own place in Latakia, the only thing that dad carried with him along that walk through the Lebanese-Syrian borders, was a book [And it was worth it, it is still one of my favorite books, Sadeq Jalal al-Azm's The Mental Taboo].

I read most of Jubran's works when I was 12, and although I know I did not grasp most of it, but it made such an impact on my life ahead...

I only started to learn English in school, in 4th grade, in the Private school of Karmelite, for one year, and then I went back to a public school...

Even though my English is far from perfect, but it's the one language that I am most comfortable writing myself. And I definitely owe that in the bigger part to Duck Tales, Gummie Bears, and the rest of the world of Disney that Future TV used to broadcast everyday at 5pm...

Having said that, When I hold a book to read, having it in Arabic still sends a warm feeling inside of me, being able to read the amazing feats of people like Abdulrahman Muneef, or Najeeb Mahfouz in their original words, that no translation will ever be able to explain, sends a beautiful feeling through me...

What translation is that, that can capture the word Mahfouz's Ziqaq in Ziqaq al-Medaq, and transform it into Alley... It's a gift that when I read the word Ziqaq, I can get the real feeling of a Zeqaq...


But, Lately, I've had some kind of a cultural shock, if u can call it that, to see so many people who prefer to read Najib Mahfouz in English rather their mother tongue.

most of them are people who are way more smarter than I am, and can by far appreciate the delicacy of the Arabic language more than me...

Makes you wonder...

8 Comments:

Blogger abufares said...

We are forced sometimes to read the masterpieces in another language. However, as you've pointed out, when we know the original langauge it's just absurd to read a translation.

March 27, 2007 3:34 AM

 
Anonymous Lost somewhere said...

My example might not be "the" example, and could even be a counter-example.
I have been educated in the french system and, must say, even though I had followed very seriously my arabic: french remained the language I felt more comfortable with (writing and reading).
But, these last 5 or more years, I have grown more interested in arabic, so in order to reinforce it I have mainly been reading in arabic.
But what is quite funny is that I also ended up reading some Kundera, Sartre and Flaubert in arabic.
Nevertheless, what you said remains very true, and it feels awkward doing so.
However, the biggest dilema in translations, I think, is that of the Quran. There still remains so much to be understood from the arabic version that it is only too early or impossible to have it translated.the same reader in different states of mind could read a same part very differently.

March 27, 2007 9:07 AM

 
Blogger Abu Kareem said...

Masterpieces of prose usually do well in translation but not poetry.

Is that the Karmelite in Lattakia? That is where I went to kindergarden and first grade, a couple of decades before you did (God, I feel old!)

March 27, 2007 10:28 AM

 
Blogger Ihsan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 28, 2007 11:39 AM

 
Blogger Ihsan said...

Still, I have known so many people who speak/read/write good English, but they prefer to read in Arabic...like all the best-selling novels. They will simply buy a translated copy of it into Arabic and read it.

I think for the most part, when a book, novel, or anything really good is translated into another language, it loses something, donno what...maybe its soul...donno...

A third category would prefer to wait till the good novels are made into movies and watch them.. :P but that is off your point I guess....just wanted you to know :D

March 28, 2007 11:40 AM

 
Blogger DUBAI JAZZ said...

Yazan,
When I was still in my full reading stamina, I read Dostoevsky's "Al Alblah" in Arabic, translated from French, which itself translated from Russian!!
It was still OK and enjoyable, I guess the 'semantic' part of literature doesn't get spoiled by translation...
However, when it comes to Arabic literature, I would certainly prefer to taste it in my mother language, unless I am trying to improve my English, which I badly need every now and then...

March 29, 2007 5:17 AM

 
Blogger Zena said...

it doesn't rea;;y matter in what language you are writing or reading, as long as people read what is written and thoughts are spread.

March 29, 2007 6:16 PM

 
Blogger black feline said...

read the Gulf News today...the segment on travelling...a feature on the beautiful castles in Syria...hope to visit in Summer..from Dubai...

April 01, 2007 1:55 AM

 

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