The Arab-American Translation Gap

What works of American literature should be translated into Arabic? The government of Abu Dhabi is asking: Kalima, an initiative founded last year by the country’s Authority for Culture & Heritage, is soliciting suggestions for American novels, short stories, and poetry in conjunction with this year’s National Book Festival in D.C. Kalima’s first to-do list, announced last year, includes William Faulkner‘s The Sound and the Fury, Isaac Bashevis Singer‘s Collected Stories, and Robert Heinlein‘s Stranger in a Strange Land. Kalima’s head, Dr. Ali bin Tamim, tells the United Arab Emirates Daily News: “It is noteworthy to mention that the complete works of great American writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner—are inaccessible to Arab readers.”

Vintage Singer

Love Comes Lately, a film based on three short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, opened last weekend to fair-to-middling-to-negative reviews. Perhaps coincidentally, last week fiction writers Dara Horn and David Bezmozgis discussed Singer’s legacy as part of Luminato, a Toronto arts festival. A report from the Canadian Jewish News doesn’t suggest any fireworks occurred, though Horn didn’t just engage in polite praise of Singer:

In a critique, she said that he was “a bit lazy” stylistically, at least later in his career, and that he falsely presented himself as “the last voice of Yiddish literature” when, in fact, the opposite was really true.

Turning an old saying on its head, Horn, a fluent Yiddish speaker, elicited waves of laughter when she joked that she and her husband converse in Yiddish when they don’t want their parents to understand what they have just said.