Monday, November 20, 2006

Words Without Borders--Spotlight on Libya

"Like a bottled genie, Libya’s literature whispers to us mysteriously, until those moments when its container is buffed properly, its luster blazes and the spirit within reveals marvels and wonders beyond the imagination. It happened when Libya discovered oil in the 60s, and it struck a well of poetry, prose, and press that its fearful master soon bottled up." --Words Without Borders

And the stories remain albeit mostly hidden still. I'm no longer sure if it's external censorship, self-censorship, or just a conservative culture of privacy that makes it this way. It's possible that people prefer to keep to the oral tradition of story telling in addition to a fear of leaving written documentation that could lead back to them. What I do believe is that there are treasures of stories among Libyans that are waiting for the right time or the right question.

I am positively amazed that Khaled Mattawa and Words Without Borders have put together a Libyan publication. I'm also thankful. The stories are super interesting and I send my blessings to Mattawa for facilitating this.

For some Libyan stories, check out Mint Flavored Hiccups or Wet Sleeves. Or al-Koni's "Sufi Shaykh."

Let me know what you think... I'd be interested in discussing.


Blogger Sereeb said...

Hello there,

First Happy holiday to you and your family.

Well, I’ve been frequenting this website, Words without Borders, for a long time now and was not surprised at all when an edition on Libyan literature was published.

Well, I totally disagree with you, as I have my own reservations regarding the translation and the translators. First, I read the original texts in Arabic and then the translation and was shocked at how Mr. Mattawa (by the way this is not the first time he does so) and his gang of so-called translators butchered the texts. Long passages were expunged, words omitted, meanings altered. In my opinion it was a massacre. Butchering a text in the name of translation is a crime in my books.

Anyhow, it was nice to see Mr. Mattawa directing some of his efforts towards promoting the Libyan writers instead of favouring other writers from the other Arab countries. Enough arse-licking, eh! Though, as old habits die hard, Mr Mattawa’s new love affair with Libyan writers is not for nothing, لله في لله. Certainly Mr Mattawa wouldn’t have mounded the new wave of Libyan literature if he won’t be cashing from it. Publicity and هلم جرا. Sure he would like to be hailed the Messiah of the Libyan literature. Did I just say, old habits die hard?

For me, the efforts were mere publicity stunt by the aforementioned Mr. Mattawa and his gang of unqualified translators. As if I don’t know the attention-seeker in him! He would do anything to get noticed. Mama Mia! قالك شاعر ومترجم!

Ah, haven’t you read/heard about the brouhaha that accompanied Mr Hisham Matar’s new novel, In the Country of Men! In my humble opinion the novel was very average, very bland and lacking any aesthetic value. Reading the novel felt like watching a black and white Egyptian movie. How Creative!!

Kind Regards

11:05 AM  
Blogger ontripoli said...

I do not know what to make of your comment Sereeb.

Not to veer off subject I like the American way of doing things. Cheer and more cheer for any one who does work for exposing literature, no matter where it comes from.
I remember I opened a business in a very rural small town of mid America, almost every young man who walked in to my place said this
"Darn it, I had the same thought, but you beat me to it. Very good for you"
Keep up the good work Spicy girl.
Here's my litrature for you:
As sufficiently suffonsyfying would be the efficiency of the efficient mind, scrambled under the heavy baggage urbanism can bring on the desolate spoils cultured non existent, momentarily lacking very hard evidence of the noble discreetness of the origins of noble blood line, with souls minus in understanding of natural be.

4:28 AM  
Blogger Sereeb said...

Hello again,

And if I may add the following point(s) as well:

What are the ingredients of a successful and accurate translation? The answer is simple. A good command of both the source language and the target language, plus awareness of the cultural background of both texts. And as far as I know, and this is a fact as well by Mr. Mattawa’s own admission, his command of the Standard Arabic language is (how shall I put it nicely!) very basic, to say the least. Unless we are going to consider his mishmash of a Libyan dialect as a command of the Arabic grammar!

A story by Mr Kuni requires a full command of the Standard Arabic language, as he uses a very intricate and complicated style, not that I’m in favour of his style, but it is a fact. How could someone lacking the basic knowledge of the Arabic grammar translate such highly complicated style? Again the answer is very simple. Butcher it.

In my humble opinion, Mr Kuni should demand for the translation to be withdrawn, as it is a bad publicity for him. Plus he obviously doesn’t need Mr. Mattawa’s publicity stunt, thanks to the Libyan regime’s propaganda machine Mr Kuni’s work had been translated into more than 14 languages worldwide.

As for the other poor writers الغلابة Lassfer and the rest, even such a badly staged stunt is a dream come true. Who could blame them? They want to taste publicity and fame even if it was orchestrated by the Queen of Stunts himself. End of the day they are lucky to find Someone so oblivious to the abhorrent grammatical mistakes in their Arabic texts to translate. Yea, butchering can make miracles sometimes!

Fortunately, Mr Mattawa’s unique method of ‘stir with a stick and hand to Mas’oud’ حرك بالعود وعاطي مسعود doesn’t work for all of us. In my books that is called bluffing.

4:50 AM  
Blogger ontripoli said...

Chill out girl, just enjoy the translation and the stories.
I thought they were great

You too will be discovered some day.

6:34 AM  
Blogger Sereeb said...

خرف يا جحا أمك ماتت

I said: ‘it’s a bull’ and he insisted: ‘milk it’

قلتله ثور، قال احلبه

Am I talking Swahili?

And who told you I want to be discovered by the like of Mattawa, eh? Maybe to translate my work from English Egyptian Arabic!

7:32 AM  
Blogger Highlander said...

Happy New Year dear Somkey ! hoping for more frequent post in 2007

1:23 PM  

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