Syrian translator Muawiya Abdul Majeed: Translation is an opportunity to learn about the culture of the other, but it is plagued by hollow concepts

Paris – The Syrian translator, residing in France, Muawiya Abdul Majeed, is considered one of the most prolific members of his generation in production, activity and translation. Despite his young age (born in 1985), he carved his name firmly and distinguished in the world of translation, which qualified him for the 2018 international award “Gerardo da Cremona” ) to enhance the role of translation in the Mediterranean. In the same year, he was awarded the Sheikh Hamad Award for Translation and International Understanding.

Abdel Meguid studied Italian literature at the University of Siena for foreigners in Italy, and obtained a master’s degree in European literary culture from the Literary Translation Department from Alma Mater University in Bologna, Italy, and Alsace University. Upper Mulhouse, France.

Abdel Meguid specializes in translating Italian and Spanish literature, from which he translated many literary masterpieces. As his distinguished translation from the Spanish language of the quartet “The Cemetery of Forgotten Books” by the Spanish writer Carlos Zafon, “The Shadow of the Wind”, “The Angel’s Game”, “Prisoner of Heaven” and “The Labyrinth of the Soul”, which were issued by the Jamal Publishing House.

Finally, Abdel Meguid translated from Italian the novel “The Last Letters of Yacopo Ortis” by the Italian writer Ugo Foscolo, which was published by Genesis publications. And before that, the great Italian writer Umberto Eco, “The Hidden Flame of Queen Luana”, was published by the New Book House. A few days ago, a translation of the novel “Violent Life” by Italian writer and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini was published by him.

About his recent translations and the specifics of his translation project, Al Jazeera Net had this special dialogue with the translator Muawiya Abdul Majeed, who opened up about other intellectual and cognitive issues involved in the Arab cultural current. So to the conversation:

  • The novel “The Hidden Flame of Queen Luana” by the great Italian writer Umberto Eco – which I recently translated from Italian – revolves around postmodern times, and opens up on an endless journey on the topic of memory, its loss and its restoration. Arabia?

First of all, I resolved that this novel would come in the context of what Umberto Eco had translated from Italian by the Arab translators before me, especially the novelistic aspect. We know that Professor Ahmed Al-Sama’i translated his most famous novel, “The Name of the Rose” and the most complex, “The Prague Cemetery,” and that Dr. Amani Fawzi Habashi translated his most difficult novel, “Foucault’s Pendulum.” The “Hidden Flame of Queen Luana” had to fall within this approved translator framework, which he is accustomed to. Arab readers, in terms of maintaining the structural fluidity, through which Eco seeks to pass his thought, which sometimes eludes many followers.

Accordingly, it was necessary for me to dedicate something like a dictionary to each chapter of the novel, where the reader finds what he wants about a philosophical term or a historical event that Eco mentions in the narrative. I was pleased with the English translation and the French translation of this work, especially in view of the linguistic difficulties.

The novel “The Angel’s Game” takes place in Barcelona, ​​two decades before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War (Al-Jazeera)
  • If you give the Arab reader a small idea of ​​the intellectual, imaginative, narrative and cultural climates in which this novel moves?

The novel is based on a man who sells old and rare books and had a traffic accident that made him lose his social memory, so he must rely on his paper memory to rebuild his personality in order to understand it and understand his identity.

In each of his novels, Eco presents a central question, and in the hidden flame his questions are “Who am I? How was my identity formed? And why now?” Thus, the protagonist of the novel collides with history, geography, arts, philosophy, religion, etc., trying to discern from them what helps him to form himself, or rather restore himself. Here, the impact of childhood and the role of memory for Echo becomes clear, which makes him benefit from the autobiographical technique as well.

We Arabs need this kind of narrative to flourish, which helps us to try to answer the most important question: “Why has the situation brought us to this lowest level of collapse and fragmentation of the self? From where should we begin the rational trial of all our historical mistakes that led us to this lousy present that we It doesn’t herald a better future at all?”

I remember that when I read The Hidden Flame for the first time, I remembered many intersections between it and the Arab world, especially the issue of perpetuating violence in schools through education. Perhaps Eco could provide a logical answer to the question that pertains to him and his culture, and perhaps we can follow his example to form our own question. I hope so.

  • Finally, I translated from Italian the novel “The Last Letters of Yacopo Ortis”, by the Italian writer Ugo Foscolo, and the novel expresses a pivotal moment in the history of the Italian nation, where Italy was divided into small principalities competing with each other and contested by the ambitions of other European empires, so is the translation of this revolutionary novel that intersects Its events and topics closely match the Arab reality today and the moment of its quest for salvation and liberation internally and externally, intentionally and consciously by the translator and publisher, or is it just a literary coincidence?

The translation of this particular novel at this time was intended 100%, and it was not just a coincidence, and I translated it consciously, and I do not know if the publisher is aware of that, so the answer to this belongs to him.

As for me, I assure you that. Take, for example, the statement in the novel: “What do you expect from two great, compelling nations, who are staunch and eternal enemies, who unite only to subjugate us? Where strength is useless with them, the former tempts us with promises of freedom, and the other blackmails us with religious fanaticism, while we have been ravaged by deep-rooted oppression and mobs.” At the present time, we kneel down as humiliated slaves, we are defeated by betrayal and exhausted by hunger, so betrayal does not intimidate us and does not incite us to hunger.”

Our feeling of treachery from the great powers that encouraged and then failed us is similar to the feeling of Ugo Foscolo, or Yakuboortes.

The age in which the translator lives is the translator. It is agreed that translation is the opportunity to learn about the culture of others, and the detailed historical circumstances that they experienced, and it is natural for the translator to hope that readers will familiarize themselves with a particular work, especially if it was historical, or written in a past time, with the aim of comparing the political situations of each of them. The two cultures.

But the translator does not guarantee that the Arabs will come out with the same results as the Italians, nor does he guarantee that the readers will benefit from the historical lesson, but he certainly guarantees an awareness of the relationship between literature and politics, or between the literary and cultural output and the current political moment that creates it.

On the other hand, I confirm that I chose this novel to introduce Arab readers to a great Italian writer and of a well-established Italian stature. The Italian romantic movement is almost absent in our Arabic library, and there is no doubt that Ugo Foscolo is one of its most prominent pioneers. Thus the benefit is double; You get to know an influential Italian writer, and you get to know an Italian historical period that is very similar to what we are going through today.

  • A few days ago, a translation of the novel “Violent Life” by writer and filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini was released to you. Can you give the Arab reader an idea of ​​the characteristics of this novel and the artistic and intellectual climates in which it moves, especially when we are facing a distinguished poet and filmmaker like Pasolini?

With Pasolini, we are at a different historical and literary stage; The new realism that emerged in the wake of the fall of the fascist regime, so that the focus came to the following question “What next? What are we going to do with this huge number of hungry, poor and homeless?” Pasolini rolled up his sleeves and went into the slums and tin shacks on the outskirts of Rome to convey to his compatriots the true picture of Rome’s miserables, their daily lives, and the reasons that lead their young people to delinquency, crime and theft.

The novel “Violent Life” by the famous writer and film director Pier Paolo Pasolini, translated by Abdul Majeed into Arabic (Al Jazeera)

The novel is realistic, of course, depicting what the writer’s eye sees, and does not seek to formulate a happy ending. The prevailing climate is mud, mud and rubbish; The miserable situation in which the residents of the shantytown are wallowing symbolically, and the realistic description of what they live literally.

As for what this novel will add to the Arabic library, it is unpredictable, as I suffice that I have introduced readers to a side of Pasolini’s character, which is the novelist side.

I do not hide from you that the novel contains intentional linguistic brutality, and deliberate literary roughness. The novel is important and enshrined in contemporary Italian novelist references. It qualified for the Lustriga finals in 1959, the prestigious award for Italian novel.

The novel “Shadow of the Wind” by author Carlos Zafon was published in Spanish in 2001 and has been translated into more than 50 languages ​​(Al-Jazeera)
  • She says in your introduction to the novel “The Hidden Flame of Queen Luana”, I am trying to “save the reader the hassle of chasing meanings and concepts in order to preserve the pleasure of hardship for myself… and to prevent interruption of the reading process, and to confuse the reader and wake him up from his drunkenness.” Can we talk about the “moment of research struggle” in translation, as we talk about the “moment of poetic revelation”? Tell us about the intimate moments and evoke the spirits of distant meanings, hidden dictionaries, and historical contexts, in order for the reader to be elated at the end with a unique, distinct and creative translation.

Frankly, I do not like to deal with translation with this romance, but I see that the translation is plagued with hollow concepts that should be eliminated, such as translation is a golden betrayal and the translator is a bridge and conveys the spirit of the text and so on. I see reading as a unique moment of ecstasy, and I work not to disturb this moment and not to interrupt its smoothness.

This does not mean that I am the most beautiful text, but rather convey it with its complexities. We are talking about the ease of reading itself; How to do the reading itself. As for the moment of struggling research, there is nothing wrong with it.

Passion for translation, and keenness to be familiar with every meaning, word and letter in the text, in addition to that this is the work that I live from.

It all comes together to reflect on our moments of agonizing exploration and hunting for words and meaning on the Internet, then heading to the public library to look for paper references sometimes, or calling Italian friends to ask them what the phrase means to you? Then return to the translation theories that we have studied and their applications that we have come to know, in addition to the constant supply of literary criticism and access to new and original knowledge.

Then, if the writer uses an obsolete word, we think of an extinct synonym in our Arabic language, should we revive it or leave it lost? Will the reader understand that we used this word on purpose, or will he accuse us of pedantry, exaggeration, and Arabization? Will the reader appreciate the translator’s gesture (note at the bottom of the page, or high-level rhetorical condensation) or will her misfortune make it pass before the reader the moment he yawns on his bed to get ready for bed? All these obsessions remind us of the hours of the night we stayed up and waking up in the early morning to resume work, and so on.

  • The Tanzanian novelist Abdul Razzaq Qurna’s winning of the Nobel Prize for Literature revealed the great gap that Arabs live between between them and other world literature, cultures and languages, given that this writer, who writes in English, is not translated into the Arabic language, so where is the defect? What are the solutions to bridge this chasm that separates us as Arabs from keeping pace with advanced civilizations?

It is very difficult to translate everything, especially since Qurna’s works are not well-known and strongly present even in the French language, for example. However, the solution is there and it seems not impossible; Let us estimate the number of students graduating from faculties of arts in the Arab world as a whole, and the number of those interested in translation, who can enter this field to enrich the Arabic library, and it is preferable if they focus on distant languages ​​and branch out in their interests.

On the other hand, enthusiastic publishers must have the opportunity to open private publishing houses, which may derive support and funding from the state, or from other parties, provided that the state does not control the development of the publishing field in a bureaucratic sense, as this hinders the translation movement and slows down the transfer process to Arabic.

  • How did you live the Syrian revolution and the Arab Spring revolutions from your European exile? Are you optimistic about the future of these revolutions in light of the coups and the interactions that are contesting them internally and externally?

In the beginning, I was optimistic, but the Arab revolutions were drowned in details and succumbed to quarrels. Some revolutions stagnated, and others did not seize the historical moment, but something will move one day, the wheel of history can only advance and keep pace with the prevailing vision of the present.

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