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Literary Translation and (or as?) Conflict between the Arab World and the West

Author/Editor: Ettobi, Mustapha

Year of publication: 2008

Place of Publication & Publisher: TranscUlturAl. A Journal of Translation and Cultural Studies: War and Peace: Translation as Conflict, Resistance, and Resolution (Online), Edmonton: University of Alberta

Publisher URL: http://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/index.php/TC/index

ISBN/ISSN: ISSN 1920-0323

Publication blurb:

Major developments in the translation of literary works from Arabic into French and English and vice versa tend to indicate that it has been influenced by the geopolitical relationship between the Arab world and Western countries. This paper attempts to show how the essence of this translation history has taken root in the power differentials and conflicts between these two entities by analyzing three different phases of translation, namely:


- Napoleon Bonaparte’s Expedition to Egypt in the 18th century and the translation movement that followed in the 19th century.
- Post-Second-World-War phase including the intense translation activity during the Nasser era.
- From 1988 (when Mahfouz was awarded the Nobel Prize) to the post-9/11 era.


The article also explains how translators (like Canadian-born Johnson-Davies) played a key role in these times of war and/or peace. The work of some of them can also be considered as a form of resistance against prevailing (often negative) representations of the Other and its culture. The article ends with reflections on the current (and future) situation of the translation of Arabic literature into English and French.

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