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Translation Studies

Packaging Translated Arabic Novels

A Hawwari


This is a chapter from an abandoned research project that I started in 2004.

عدلي الهواري: 2018Context and Rationale

My research seeks to examine claims made in relation to Arabic literature in translation, focusing on novels translated from 1990 onwards. Amongst the claims to be examined is the one made by Edward Said that Arabic literature is ‘embargoed’ (1990: 278). One way to approach the subject is to conduct a survey of Arabic novels translated into English. Establishing which works were translated and who translated and published them would be an obvious starting point for this research. A complementary approach would involve analysing the packaging of the translated novels in order to establish the extent to which Arab culture is or is not represented in a way that panders to stereotypes generated in the West. This is what I propose to do in this chapter. The packaging examined includes the cover: the images used and statements made on them. It also includes the blurbs written on the back covers or flaps. In doing so, I adopt Keith Harvey’s term ‘binding’ to refer to a novel’s title, cover page photo, and the blurb (Harvey 2003:43). Some novels may have front and back flaps. These will be treated as part of the binding.

Because it is not practical for the purposes of this chapter to examine the covers and blurbs of every Arabic novel translated into English during the period under discussion, it is necessary to devise transparent selection criteria which can help us address the claims to be assessed.

Publisher Criterion

1. The translated novel is published by a major commercial publisher in the United States or United Kingdom (e.g. Penguin and RandomHouse). Clearly, novels promoted by major publishers are available to a wider readership and hence have greater impact on the reading public.

2. The translated novel is published by or with support from a cultural institution, such as the Arts Councils in the UK or the National Endowment for the Arts in the United States. This criterion enables me to examine if and how a cultural body’s approach may be different from that of a commercial publisher.[1]

3. If more than one novel is published by a commercial publisher/cultural body, only one will be selected for analysis: the first one to be translated and published.

Period Criterion

A translated novel whose binding is considered for analysis has to have been published/republished, translated/retranslated, and/or reissued within the period specified for this study, i.e. from 1990 onwards. It was in 1990 that Edward Said claimed Arabic literature was ‘embargoed.’ It is also an important year in the history and politics of both the world at large and the Arab world. During that year, Iraq invaded Kuwait. Sanctions were imposed on Iraq almost immediately, and in less than six month after the invasion a war led by American forces was launched. Kuwait was liberated, but Iraq remained under comprehensive sanctions. Moreover, after the war, and because of it, a Middle East peace process was launched in Madrid in 1991. As this research examines whether or not politics is taken into consideration when novels are selected for translation, 1990 is an important landmark. It also allows one to examine translations of the decade before, i.e. 1980s, a decade that followed two major historic and international political developments: the Camp David Peace Accord (1978) between Egypt and Israel, and the Islamic revolution in Iran (1979) which toppled the Shah of Iran, an ally of the West.

I adopt the spelling used by publishers to ensure that a search using the internet will lead quickly to relevant information about the authors. I use capital A in the Arabic (Al-ال) which is often written as (al) to minimise the difficulty of computers when refusing a small letter at the beginning of a sentence. In the bibliography, Al is ignored in listing the authors, so Al-Shaykh will be found in the list of names beginning with an S. A brief biography of the author and a selection of his/her works will be provided before the analysis of the bindings.

Applying the commercial publisher criterion produces six authors as candidates:

Hanan Al-Shaykh/حنان الشيخ (Lebanon):

1. Misk Al-Ghazal/مسك الغزال (1988, Beirut, Dar Al-Adab). Translated by Catherine Cobham and published by in 1992 by Anchor Books (Random House) as Women of Sand and Myrrh.

2. Hikayat Zahra/حكاية زهرة (1980, Beirut: Dar Al-Nahar). Translated by Peter Ford and published in 1986 by Quartet (London) and in 1996 by Random House as The Story of Zahra.

3. Bareed Beirut/بريد بيروت (1992, Cairo: Dar Al-Hilal). Translated by Catherine Cobham and published in 1996 by Random House as Beirut Blues.

4. Ennaha London Ya Azizi/ إنها لندن يا عزيزي (2000, Beirut: Dar Al-Adab). Translated by Catherine Cobham and published in 2001 by Random House as Only in London.

In line with the criteria of selection, the binding of her novel Misk Al-Ghazal will be selected for analysis.

Abdelrahman Munif/عبد الرحمن منيف (Saudi Arabia):

1. Mudon Al-Milh/مدن الملح (1984, Beirut: Arab Institute for Research and Publishing). Translated by Peter Theroux and published in 1994 by Vintage (UK) as Cities of Salt.

2. Al-Ukhdoud/الأخدود (1985, Beirut: Arab Institute for Research and Publishing). Translated by Peter Theroux and published by Vintage in 1993 as The Trench.

3. Taqaseem Al-Layl wa Al-Nahar/تقاسيم الليل والنهار (1989, Beirut: Arab Institute for Research and Publishing). Translated by Peter Theroux and published by Vintage in 1994 as Variations on Night and Day.

In line with the criteria of selection, the binding of The Trench will be selected for analysis.

Naguib Mahfouz (Egypt):[2]

1. Ziqaq Al Midaq/زقاق المدق (1947, Maktabat Misr). Translated by Trevor Le Gassick and republished in 1992 by Anchor Books as Midaq Alley.

2. Bayn Al Qasrayn/بين القصرين (1957, Cairo: Maktabat Misr). Translated by William Maynard Hutchins and Olive E. Kenny and published in 1990 by Anchor Books as Palace Walk. (Part 1 on the Cairo Trilogy).

3. Qasr Al-Shoqe/قصر الشوق (1957, Cairo: Maktabat Misr). Translated by William Hutchins and Lorne M. Kenny and published in 1992 by Doubleday as Palace of Desire. (Part 2 of the Cairo Trilogy).

4. Al-Sukkariyya/السكرية (1957, Cairo: Maktabat Misr). Translated by William Maynard Hutchins and Angele Botros Samaan and published in 1993 by Anchor Books as Sugar Street. (Part 3 of the Cairo Trilogy).

5. Awlad Haritna/اولاد حارتنا (1957, Cairo: Al-Ahram and 1967, Beirut: Drl Al-Adab). The 1959 version was translated by Philip Stewart and published in 1981 by Heinemann Educational Books and in 1988 by the Three Continents Press[3] as Children of Gebelaawi.

6. Tharthara Fawq Al-Neel/ثرثرة فوق النيل (1966, Cairo: Maktabat Misr). Translated by Frances Liardet and published by Anchor Booksin 1994 as Adrift on the Nile.

In line with the criteria of selection, the binding of Palace Walk will be selected for analysis.

Tayeb Salih/الطيب صالح (Sudan):

Mawsem Al-Hijra Ela Al-Shamal/موسم الهجرة إلى الشمال (1966, Beirut: Hiwar. 1970, Beirut: Dar Al-Awda). Translated by Denys Johnson-Davies, and first published by Heinemann in 1969 as Season of Migration to the North. Latest edition is published in 2003 by Penguin Classics.[4]

Gamal Al-Ghitani/جمال الغيطاني (Egypt):

Al-Zayni Barakat/الزيني بركات (1971, Damascus: Syrian Ministry of Culture). Translated by Farouk Abdel Wahab, and published in 1990 by Penguin as Zayni Barakat.

Betool Khedairi/بتول الخضيري (Iraq):

Kam Badat Al Samaa Qaribah/كم بدت السماء قريبة (1999, Beirut: Arab Institute for Research and Publishing). Translated by Muhayman Jamil and published in 2001 by Pantheon Books in hardback cover as A Sky So Close. A paperback edition was published in 2002 by Anchor Books.

Applying the cultural institution criterion produces two candidates, the translations of whose novels were supported by the Arts Council of Great Britain and published in 1995 by Garnet as part of the Arab Women Writers Series.[5] These are:

Hoda Barakat/هدى بركات (Lebanon). Hajar Al-Dhahek/حجر الضحك (1990, London: Riyadh El-Rayyes Books). Translated by Sophie Bennett and published in 1996 by Garnet (UK) as The Stone of Laughter.

Salwa Bakr/ســـلوى بـــكر (Egypt). Al-Araba Al-Thahabiya La Tasaad Ela Al-Samaa/العـربة الذهبية لا تصعد إلى السماء (1991, Cairo: Sina Lil Nashr). Translated by Dinah Manisty and published in 1995 by Garnet as The Golden Chariot.

Hoda Barakat’s novel will be selected for analysis because hers was the first to be translated in the series (Faqir 1995: v). Hence, it was a scene setter for the rest of the series. This was also Barakat’s first novel.[6]

Hanan Al-Shaykh (حنان الشيخ)

Hanan Al-Shaykh was born in Lebanon in 1945. She was educated in Lebanon and Egypt. After graduation from university, she worked in the Lebanese daily newspaper An-Nahar. She left Lebanon in 1975 and lived in the Gulf for a number of years. In 1985, she moved to London where she still lives. In addition to the translated novels mentioned previously, her other works include the following:[7]

1) Intihar Rajul Mayyet/انتحار رجل ميت (1970, publisher not known. The Suicide of a Dead Man; not translated into English).

2) Faras Al-Shaitan/فرس الشيطان (1975, Beirut: Dar Al-Nahar. The Horse of the Devil; not translated into English)

3) Aknos Al-Shams An Al-Sutouh/اكنس الشمس عن السطوح (1994, Beirut: Dar Al-Adab). Translated by Catherine Cobham and published in 1998 by Random House as I Sweep the Sun Off Rooftops). Short stories.

4) Emra’atan Ala Shate’a Al-Bahr/امرأتان على شاطيء البحر (2003, Beirut: Dar Al-Adab). (Two Women on the Sea Beach). Not translated into English.

In line with the selection criteria for analysis, I shall analyse the binding of her translated novel Misk AlGhazal (Women of Sand and Myrrh). This novel is her most successful as it ‘sold more than 35,000 copies and ‘was selected as one of the Fifty Best Books of 1992 by Publishers Weekly’ (RandonHouse.Com).

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Back Cover Blurb

FICTION/MIDDLE EASTERN STUDIES

Little is known of what life is like for contemporary Arab women living in the Middle East. One of the few literary voices speaking out from that still-closed society is Hanan al-Shaykh. Her first novel, The Story of Zahra, was banned in several Middle Eastern countries because of its explicit expression of female sexuality and sensuality.

Now, available for the first time in the United States, is her newest novel, Women of Sand and Myrrh. In economic, yet elegant prose—reminiscent of Margaret Dabble’s and Margaret Atwood’s—she tells the story of four women, living in an unnamed desert state, who are struggling to cope in a society where they are treated to every luxury but freedom.

Al-Shaykh lays bare the unusual and highly charged relations that necessarily exist in a state that denies women their humanity, and she does so in a lyrical, feeling language whose impact is all the greater for its lack of polemic.

‘A gifted and courageous writer.’—Middle East International

‘Al-Shaykh’s artistry in this memorable book lies in the way she tells about religion, sex, marriage, house keeping as they really are in the great golden cage of the desert.’ —International herald Tribune

Women of Sand and Myrrh is not a translation of the Arabic title, which is Misk Al-Ghazal (The Musk of the Deer). As Harvey’s study demonstrates, a publisher may decide to appeal more directly to the target reader by changing the title of the translated novel. Here, instead of using Misk Al-Ghazal or an English equivalent, the publisher chose Women of Sand and Myrrh, a title which evokes Orientalist images of the East and its women.

Interestingly, the blurb starts by asserting that ‘Little is known of what life is like for contemporary Arab women living in the Middle East.’ Arguably, however, a great deal is known about men and women living in the Middle East. The Arab world, and particularly the Middle East, is one of the most studied regions in the world, and is constantly under the spotlight. If little is known about the region and its inhabitants, it is perhaps by the author of the blurb, but not by the average citizen who reads a daily paper and watches even one news bulletin a day. Noteworthy here is the use of the term ‘Middle East’ instead of the Arab World or the Gulf. It (the Middle East) evokes the politics of the Arab-Israeli conflict in which Israel is viewed with sympathy, especially in the United States, as a democratic, open society that, among other things, does not suppress its women.

The second sentence in the blurb goes on to assure us that Hanan Al-Shaykh is ‘one of the few literary voices speaking out from that still closed society.’ As Amal Amireh observes, ‘reviewers tend to represent whatever Arab woman writer they happen to be reviewing as a “lone voice” and a victim of Arab censorship’ (Amireh 1996) [8]. But Arab women novelists are not a rare species. They existed in substantial numbers, long before Hanan Al-Shaykh appeared on the scene. Moreover, Al-Shaykh has many contemporaries who speak out about women’s position in Arab societies and other issues. It fits the stereotype better, however, to say that there are only a few Arab women who dare to speak out. At any rate, instead of viewing the novel as a creative, fictional work, this type of Arabic literature is treated as a political statement made on behalf of oppressed women.

The reference to a ‘still-closed society’ begs the question. Are Arab societies closed? And closed to whom, and in what sense? It is relatively easy for Westerners in particular to visit almost all Arab countries without requiring a visa. If one is required, it can be obtained on the spot upon arrival at the airport. Moreover, the streets of Cairo, Amman and many other Arab capitals display varying degrees of openness, extending from women wearing the latest Western fashion to those who are fully covered, and who may, nevertheless, mix freely with men and foreigners in the same way.

The potential reader of Women of Sand and Myrrh is further lured by a reference to the banning of Hanan Al-Shaykh’s first novel, The Story of Zahra. Banning novels does take place in the Arab world, often for religious reasons, say when a novel is deemed by a religious authority (e.g. Al-Azhar of Egypt) to be blasphemous or offensive to Moslems. Banning books happens for political reasons as well, when a novel is thought to be critical of the regime or its leader. In the case of The Story of Zahra, the reason for banning the novel, according to the blurb, is the ‘explicit expression of female sexuality.’ But it is not clear where exactly the novel was banned (Lebanon, Egypt, etc.), and whether the ban is permanent or temporary. The publisher, Dar Al-Adab, has confirmed that the novel has originally been banned by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and that Egypt has followed suit last year. Dar Al-Adab however have said that they never know the real reason because they do not receive anything in writing.[9]

It goes without saying that the reference to explicit sexuality and to banning is a deliberate strategy designed to arouse curiosity, not to mention that it reinforces a stereotype associated with women in the ‘exotic’ Middle East. Indeed, the blurb’s focus on sex and sexuality is part of a dominant Orientalist theme in the West’s relationship with the Middle East. As Edward Said observes in Orienatlism, ‘the association between the Orient and sex is remarkably persistent,’ and ‘the relation between the Middle East and the West is really defined as sexual’ (Said 1978/2003: 309).

The third paragraph makes a reference to ‘a state that denies women their humanity,’ without, intriguingly, explicitly naming a state (the Middle East of course is not a state). Even in the most conservative of Arab states, it is an exaggeration (if not an untruth) to suggest that women are denied their humanity. Of course women in Arab countries would like and deserve more freedom, but that is different from saying they live in a ‘state’ which denies them their humanity, whether state is used in the sense of country or situation. Many women have considerable power over men even in the most conservative of Arab-Moslem societies, especially in their roles as mothers and grandmothers.

Whether in terms of the manipulative change of title or the Orientalist rhetoric of the blurb, Women of Sand and Myrrh is not an isolated case. Amal Amireh cites more examples in this respect. For instance, the title of Huda Shaarawi’s memoirs is changed from Muthakkaraty/مذكراتي (My Memoirs) to Harem Years.[10] The cover of Fadia Faqir’s novel, Nasinit (written in English) has a photo of ‘a woman draped in black from head to toe.’[11] Amireh further observes that reviews of novels and other books about Arab women ‘seem to take their cues from the titles and covers,’ and that the reviewers ‘read the novels as sociological and anthropological tests that “reflect” Islam and the Arab world’ (Amireh 1996).

One further feature of the blurb warrants a mention: the comparison between Al-Shaykh’s style and that of Margaret Drabble and Margaret Attwood, the British novelist and Canadian poet and novelist, respectively. In his analysis of aspects of treating Arab literature as second class, Andre Lefevere refers to an ‘analogy strategy’ which can be used in negative or positive terms (Lefevere 1992:77). The back cover blurb of Women of Sand and Myrrh uses the analogy strategy in positive terms to strengthen Al-Shaykh’s appeal to Western feminists.

Now do the claims made in the blurb have any basis in the novel and its protagonists? My own reading of this novel is that its theme is not about women being denied freedom. If this were the message of Hanan Al-Shaykh, then why does she have one of the four women, Suzanne (the American), so desperate to stay in the desert state that she is even willing to change her religion? Suzanne contemplates various ideas, as can be seen in the final paragraph of the chapter narrated by Suzanne herself:

... وأفكر بأنني لن أغادر هنا مهما حصل. تصميمي هذا، جعل أفكارا حتى الخرافية منها تتزاحم في رأسي. إشهار إسلامي وطلبي البقاء لأعمل مربية أطفال؟ أو توقيع أوراق الطلاق من ديفيد والزواج الشكلي من رينغو والذي لن تنتهي إقامته قبل شهر؟ وجدتني أعد على أصابعي، وكان عدد ما تبقى لي خمسة أيام (p. 184).

… [I] vowed not to leave here whatever happened. This resolve made ideas come tumbling into my head, including fantastic ones. I could say I’d converted to Islam and ask to stay as a children’s nanny, or sign my divorce papers and go through a formal marriage with Ringo, whose residence permit did not expire for at least a month. I found myself counting on my fingers: I had five days left (p.236).

One would not expect an American woman to miss the opportunity to leave a state which denies her and other women their humanity. So what is it that makes her want to stay? Arguably, it is the attention she gets from men in the desert state and being sexually desired. The American woman in the novel is thus the victim of many stereotypes, foremost amongst which is that as an American woman she is promiscuous. Each of the four women then is a collage of stereotypes. And so are the other minor characters with whom the four women deal in one context or another.

Nor is the novel one about women’s rights or is necessarily feminist in its outlook. The expatriate women have little or no sympathy for the indigenous desert women, who are subject to ridicule, in one instance for not knowing English.

أطلت فاطمة، تحمل صحنا كبيرا من الفاكهة، وابتسامتها عريضة، دلت على بطنها وقالت: "في بوبو". ابتسمت لها، كأن الأمر لا يعنيني. فعلا ما كان يعنيني. كل ما أردته الآن أن استنجد بمعاذ وأبــقى هـنا. ولـما هـــزت فاطــمة كتفيها عندما سألتها عن معاذ بمعنى أنها لا تعرف قلت: "Son of the bitch" ردت فاطــمة "تانكيو مـدام السوزان". ثـــم ابتسمت فـرحة بأنها تتكلم الإنكليزية(p. 168) .

Fatima appeared with a big bowl of fruit and broad smile. She pointed to her stomach and said, ‘I’m having a baby.’ I smiled back at her, as if it did not concern me, which it didn’t. All I wanted now was to seek help from Maaz so that I could stay in this country. When I asked Fatima where he was she shrugged her shoulders. ‘Son of a bitch,’ I said in English. ‘Thank you, Madam Suzzane,’ replied Fatima, smiling delightedly at her English. (pp. 216-217).

The author portrays Fatima as a dumb woman who does not understand English. However, An American would not say ‘son of the bitch’ (emphasis added). This disdain for Fatima and the less than accurate English uttering by Suzanne is lost in the English translation.

Given the novel’s stereotyped portrayal of women, especially women of the desert state, why was it selected for translation and published by a major commercial publisher? Janine Abboushi Dallal believes Women of Sand and Myrrh is written for a Western reader:

That Misk Al-Ghazal is written for Anglophone readers in particular is clear in the first chapter. The references in it to Western culture, which are not familiar to the Arab reader, are not explained by the author, while the references to Arab customs and practices are explained (Abboushi Dallal 1999: 51). (My translation).

Thus, when Suha, the Lebanese woman in the novel, destroys toys of animals, this is explained with reference to religious sensitivities. References to the Muppet Show, Kermit the frog, and Miss Piggy, on the other hand, are not explained, as if everyone knows what these are.[12]

Finally, it is worth contesting the publisher’s claim that Hanan Al-Shaykh is the ‘best known and most admired woman writer in the Arab world.’ It is no doubt gratifying to see an Arab writer achieving success and fame in his or her country, and even more gratifying to see their success being replicated in the West. However, the publisher’s statement obscures the considerable achievement of many of Al-Shaykh’s contemporaries who do not necessarily oblige the West by adhering to its stereotypes of Arab women. For example, Ghada Al-Samman, a Syrian who lived in Lebanon, was and still is a well known novelist and writer in the Arab world. She is the ‘author of more than twenty-eight books’ (Syracuse University Press Website 2004). The latest woman writer to achieve success in terms of sales and literary reviews is the Algerian novelist Ahlam Mostaghnemi. Her novel Thakirat Al-Jasad/ ذاكرة الجسد (Memory of the Flesh), published in 1993, is currently in its tenth printing (Ghazoul 1998).[13] Dr. Bouthaina Shaaban, Professor of Literature at Damascus University, considers the Palestinian novelist Sahar Khalifeh to be ‘the best Arab woman novelist in the twentieth century,’ for having ‘written one novel after another to show the inseparability of feminist issues form social and political concerns’ (Shaaban 1999).[14] As Dr. Shaaban is the author of a comprehensive study of Arab women writers, her assessment of Arab women works must therefore be taken seriously.

Keith Harvey suggests that ‘the discourse of the blurb is the expression of a particular type of ‘scandal’ in the target culture’ (Harvey 2003: 66). I am inclined to agree. In Women of Sand and Myrrh, the scandal lies in the blurb’s representation of ‘desert states’ and women who live there. The desert cannot be a home in the sense of nation or family house. It is true that there remains a lot to be desired in the oil rich states of the Arabian Peninsula, but people’s attachments to their homelands and homes should not be ridiculed or dismissed. A considerable part of the United States is mostly desert (Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico), but that does not prevent these states from being viewed as an integral part of the US, nor are the people of these ‘desert states’ viewed with such disdain as the people who live in the nameless desert state of Women of Sand and Myrrh.

Hoda Barakat (هدى بركات)

Hoda Barakat was born in Lebanon in 1952 and received a BA in French from the University of Lebanon in 1975. She left Lebanon for Paris in 1989, the last year of the Lebanese civil war. While in Lebanon she worked as a teacher and journalist.[15] In addition to Hajar Al-Dhahek, her other novels are:

1) Ahl Al-Hawa/ أهل الهوى (1994, Beirut: Dar Al-Nahar. People of Love. Not translated into English).

2) Hareth Al-Miyah/ حارث المياه (1998, Beirut: Dar Al-Nahar). This novel won the Naguib Mahfouz Award in 2000. It was translated by Marilyn Booth and published in 2001 by the American University in Cairo Press as The Tiller of Waters. Therefore, it is not within the scope of my research.

Hajar Al-Dahek is selected for analysis because, as has been pointed out earlier, it meets the cultural institution and period criteria. This novel is published in the UK and USA by different publishers, thus enabling comparison of differences and similarities in the cover and blurb.

The title of the translated novel, The Stone of Laughter, is a close English equivalent of the Arabic Hajar Al-Dhahek. The cover draws on images associated with Islam: the crescent, the minaret and the palm tree, as can be seen next page. It is worth pointing out, however, that one of the reasons for selecting this novel for translation is the fact that a civil war was going on in the former Yugoslavia (Faqir 1995: v). It seemed an appropriate choice given its focus on another civil war, that of Lebanon (1975-1989).

Front Cover and Back Cover Blurb: Garnet’s Edition, 1995

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Back Cover Blurb: Interlink Edition (1995; emphasis added)

The Stone of Laughter is a virile novel which brings forth the contradictory history of a city under fire through the life and dilemmas of a gay man. It is a bold and radical novel, full of black humor and cynical observations about life in war-torn Beirut. In 1990, when it first appeared in Arabic, it was hailed by critics throughout the Arab world as the best novel set against the background of the Lebanese civil war.

The fractured narrative is woven around Khalil, a gay man who tries to avoid ideological or military affiliation, as he finds himself confronted with the collapse of his civil society and reacts by withdrawing into his domestic life. His only contact with the world at large is through friends at a newspaper, for whom falling bombs may mean great stories and promotion, rather than tragedy and destruction. Khalil struggles to keep himself away from the war but is inevitably drawn in as he realises that in a city at war, no one can remain neutral.

Written sensitively, and without a trace of sentimentality or political propaganda, The Stone of Laughter shook the preconceptions of Arab readers about women’s writing and the necessity of political affiliation for Arab authors. Hailed by many critics as the best novel set against the background of the Lebanese civil war, it won the prestigious Al-Naqid award for first novels.

**

‘A splended novel which surpasses most works by established Arab writers.’

—Edward Al-Kharrat

The cover of Garnet’s edition draws on images associated with Islam: the crescent, the minaret and the palm tree. I am inclined to suggest that the cover is designed to fit in with the introduction written by Fadia Faqir, who makes statements about the ill-treatment of women in the Arab world. These statements will be addressed in some detail in a separate chapter. Interlink’s cover uses no such images.

In the Interlink edition, the significant difference in the blurb is in referring to the protagonist Khalil as a gay man. This points to two possibilities. First, Interlink wants to make the novel appeal to gay readers, while Garnet is more interested in women since the novelist is a woman and the novel is part of a series by Arab women writers. Second, there may be a genuine difference in the interpretation of the sexual inclinations of the protagonist Khalil, i.e., whether he is decidedly gay or simply effeminate.

Both publishers claim in the blurb that Hoda Barakat ‘shook the preconceptions of Arab readers about women’s writing and the necessity of political affiliation for Arab authors.’ The reality is that women writers, politically affiliated or not, have been writing novels before the appearance of The Stone of Laughter, and continue to do so.

= = =

[1] There is a case to argue that some initiatives and other bodies should be treated as cultural institutions: the Project for Translation from Arabic (PROTA) and some university presses, especially those with strong interest in Arab literature, such as the University of Texas at Austin, University of Arkansas and Syracuse University. Accordingly, some bindings of books published by such bodies can be included, depending on adopting a broader definition of a cultural institution.

[2] Naguib Mahzouz is a prolific writer and Nobel laureate. The list of his translated novels that meet the criteria is long. The above-mentioned novels are those cited by the Nobel Prize committee.

[3] Now known as Passeggiata Press and based in Colorado, USA.

[4] Mawsem Al-Hjira Ela Al-Shamal first appeared in Arabic in 1966 in a magazine published in Beirut called Hiwar (Dialogue), then in 1970 by Dar Al-Awda, Beirut. Its controversial background is outlined in an introduction by the author to Penguin’s edition.

[5] Other novels in the series: Mothballs (Alia Mamdouh, Iraq); The Eye of the Mirror (Liana Badr, Palestine); and The Homeland (Hamida Nana, Syria).

[6] Harvey’s criteria look at how quickly a first novel is translated as this indicates how important it was for the publisher.

[7] http://www.bloomsbury.com/authors/default.asp?id=165&section=1

http://voices.cla.umn.edu/newsite/authors/ALSHAYKHhanan.htm

[8] http://www.aljadid.com/features/0210amireh.html

[9] Email from Dar Al-Adab dated 24 June 2005.

[10] Harem Years: The Memoirs of an Egyptian Feminist, 1879-1924. Published in 1987 by Feminist Press, New York. Translated by Margot Badran.

[11] Published in 1987 by Aidan Ellis, Oxfordshire, then by Penguin, London, 1988.

[12] Misk Al-Ghazal, pp. 13-14. The Muppet Show, a TV show, was popular with children and adults.

[13] A copy I have is labelled 19th edition.

[14] http://www.macmag-glip.org/joussour_contribution.htm

[15] http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/1999/457/profile.htm