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Abstract

This article draws from historical treatises on Arabic grammar, alongside modern theories of untranslatability and translation ethics, to argue for both the practical feasibility and the ethical potential of accounting for the grammatical Arabic dual inflection in English translations of Arabic literature. It considers the dual to possess certain formal qualities—of sound, sense, affective impact, and ontological significance—that require a correspondingly material and embodied mode of engagement from the translator, which is described here with reference to my own published translation of a contemporary Lebanese novel. Ultimately, I propose that such an approach enables new and more ethical ways of reading from an Anglophone audience.

In: Philological Encounters

Egyptian author Waguih Ghali’s 1964 English-language novel Beer in the Snooker Club has been until now largely neglected in scholarship on the literature of the Arab world. It portrays the privileged but aimless existence of a young man in 1950s Egypt who, in the course of his travels between Cairo and London and in his interactions with his snooker-playing friends and his elite social circle, is constantly negotiating cultural and ethnic boundaries. I argue here that the theoretical models of cosmopolitanism and hybridity often used to interpret works like Ghali’s position them within a system of binaries, distinct identity categories, and historical facts within which these fictional narratives become primarily instruments for representation, witnessing, and activist politics. Reading Beer in the Snooker Club against the backdrop of these theories, this essay explores the way that fictionality operates in the novel both thematically and as a literary device to unsettle notions of truth, identity, representation, the East–West encounter, and cosmopolitanism itself. Ghali’s text is also analyzed here in light of current debates in world literature and comparative literary studies over how global literature should be read in the Western academy, the limitations of the comparative method, and what constitutes “world literature” as a set of scholarly practices and/or as a canon of texts. Ultimately, this essay proposes a method of study that, by attending to the aesthetic and imaginative qualities of texts like Ghali’s that speak from the linguistic and cultural margins, allows them to emerge as literature within the discourse of academic scholarship.

In: Journal of Arabic Literature
In: Journal of Arabic Literature

Abstract

This essay examines Richard Francis Burton’s The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (1885–1888), an English translation of the Arabic Alf Laylah wa-Laylah stories that was enormously popular in its own time and continues to be widely admired today – despite the fact that Burton plagiarized extensively from the work of another translator. I argue that Burton’s Nights is neither a faithful nor an original translation of the Arabic stories, but rather an English text whose aesthetic enjoyment is proffered as an affective engagement with the literary aesthetics of the source text, translated through Burton’s own pleasurable experiences of Arabic literary language. Framing the reception of Burton’s Nights, through the Arabic concept of ṭarab, as a process of iterative cycles of pleasure that move between the translator and his readers, I contend that what makes Burton’s Nights enjoyable to read also makes it scandalous to the world literary system within which it has circulated.

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In: Journal of World Literature
The Journal of Arabic Literature (JAL) is the leading journal specializing in the study of Arabic literature, ranging from the pre-Islamic period to the present. Founded in 1970, JAL seeks critically and theoretically engaged work at the forefront of the field, written for a global audience comprised of the specialist, the comparatist, and the student alike. JAL publishes literary, critical and historical studies as well as book reviews on Arabic literature broadly understood– classical and modern, written and oral, poetry and prose, literary and colloquial, as well as work situated in comparative and interdisciplinary studies.

Peer Review Policy: All articles published in Journal of Arabic Literature undergo a double-anonymous external peer review process. This includes articles published in special issues.
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