English translations of Arabic books skyrocketing since 2010, says new report | Culture & Society
Ammon News – The number of Arabic books translated into English is growing at a remarkable rate, according to a new study shared at the Frankfurt Book Fair.
Between 2010 and 2020, research by the European nonprofit Literature Across Frontiers found 596 literary translations from Arabic to English – defined as titles of fiction, poetry, drama and non- fiction. This contrasts with the 310 works published over a longer period between 1990 and 2010.
The main genres translated are novels and short stories with 301 titles, followed by 169 poetic works and 57 “classics” – translations of classical Arabic literature from the pre-Islamic era to the “dawn of the modern period”.
The report singles out NYU Abu Dhabi’s Arabic Literature Library for helping to fuel this growth by publishing acclaimed translations of revered titles, such as Impostures by sixth-century Iraqi author Al Hariri.
Current affairs and current affairs are one of the main reasons for the growing interest in Arabic literature, says Abdel-Wahab Khalifa, co-author of the study and lecturer in translation and interpretation at the University of Cardiff.
“Whenever there is a geopolitical event, you will find a spike in the number of Arabic to English translations,” he said.
Egypt tops the list with 127 books, followed by 114 from Iraq, 71 from Palestine and 65 from Syria.
Other countries on the list of 26 Mena territories include Lebanon with 61 released titles, Saudi Arabia with 22 and the United Arab Emirates with 11.
One of the benefits of these surges in interest, the report says, is the professionalization of translators and the adoption of better business practices by Arabic publishers.
The report highlights the wise decisions of British publishers such as Saqi Books and Comma Press, in addition to the literary magazine Banipal, for seizing these moments and publishing translated books and anthologies dedicated to authors from the Arab world.
When it comes to regional authors with the most translated works available in the UK and Ireland, Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz comes out on top with 16 titles.
He is followed by fellow Egyptian Nawal El Saadawi, Sudanese novelist Amir Tag Elsir and Iraqi poet Adnan Al-Sayegh, all of whom have translated six books each.
Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury and Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish complete the list with five and four works respectively.
Khalifa said he was encouraged by the increase in the number of non-academic female Arabic translators entering the industry through a number of training courses and workshops run by British literary organizations such as the Poetry Translation Centre.
“There’s also this welcome shift in the sense that they’re women of color, they’re more diverse, and their first language might not be English,” he said.
“They do a very good job, but there is still an obvious disparity between the number of male and female translators that will hopefully change over the years.”
Although pleased with the trajectory of the UK and Irish markets, Khalifa said more work needed to be done in the Arab world to ensure continued growth.
Most pressing is the need for more quality control when it comes to original works published in the Arab world.
“I hope we will see more funding offered to Arabic publishers early in the publishing process to support their authors, instead of putting this work on the shoulders of translators,” he said.
(The national news)