from “Arabic Literature (in English)”

The folks at Arab Lit have gathered some very thoughtful advice about translating from a broad range of translators. Find them here: Rules for Translating.

My favorites so far are:

1. translate something you love

2. Don’t just read the text, listen to the voice in your head.

3. Be faithful in the first draft. Reproduce the surface. Don’t be an editor.

4. Don’t always translate every last word: leaving some untranslatable words or expressions that can add to the “local colour” of the piece but are comprehensible in context can actually enhance the text.

5. Always respect the author’s intention, even if you don’t always respect the vocabulary, syntax, rhythm, etc.

And these great questions from Elliott Colla:

1. Do you really have time to donate weeks or months of unremunerated labor, even if the cause is a good one?

2. Does this particular book really deserve a second life in another language? Why?

3. How would you compare the work to five other similar works in other languages?

4. Who is the English audience for the translation, and why would they be interested now? Do you have any evidence for believing this?

5. Are you doing this because of your love of Arabic literary culture, or your love of English?

6. Do you have a fool-proof system for knowing when you’ve gotten something wrong and when you’ve gotten it right? Would you share it with me?