Syrian translator Khaled Al-Jubaili: The translation contributed to restoring my psychological balance | culture

Paris- “The wider the vision, the narrower the phrase.” This mystic saying applies to the translation process as a precise creative synthesis, combining two different texts and two discordant worlds, in which the vision of the research expands and the translation phrase narrows at the same time.

The Syrian translator Khaled Al-Jubaili was able to dissolve this contradiction and dissonance in his translations, and to send a new spirit of imagination in the original texts that he transferred and translated into the language of the Dhad, because he works with the principle of the translator’s identification with the first text in order to create a new, unique text.

Al-Jubaili, born in Aleppo in 1953, and residing in the United States, is considered one of the most important Arab translators today. He has contributed to translating classical and modern Western literature and culture.

In parallel with his long creative career replete with 73 translated books so far, Al-Jubaili worked for 18 years as a translator and reviewer at the International Center for Agricultural Research and the Arabic Translation Service of the United Nations, in New York.

Ibn Aleppo translated literary masterpieces by the most famous international writers, issued by major Arab publishing houses such as Al-Jamal, Al-Hiwar, Nineveh, Al-Saqi Ward, and introduced the Arab reader to the “Pink Steel Trilogy” of the creator Henry Miller, and the literary masterpieces of Jalal al-Din al-Rumi, Paulo Coelho, Dmitri Nabakov, Shahryar Mendani Bor and Alberto Moravia. And the Japanese Hounichiro Tanazaki.

Recently, Jubaili was credited with introducing the Arab reader to the Turkish writer Elif Shafak, by translating two of her works: “The Bastard of Istanbul” and “The Forty Rules of Love,” and the German-Syrian writer Rafiq Shami through his two novels “The Dark Side of Love” and “Sofia or the Beginning of All Stories”, and he is currently working on translating his novel “The Calligrapher’s Hidden Secret”.

He has also recently published several remarkable translations, such as “The Desert and Its Seed” by Jorge Baron Besa, “Rock Garden” by Nikos Kazantzaki, “Divine Love” by Omid Safi, and “A Matter of Death and Life” by Professor Irvin Yalom and Marilyn Yalom.

About these recent translations, and about his long distinguished creative career, Al Jazeera Net had this dialogue with Al Jubaili. The meeting also touched on poetry, Sufi literature, issues of translation and culture, and its translation of the masterpiece of the best-selling American writer Judy Picklot, tagged with “I wish you were here”, which deals with the Corona pandemic and will be issued in the coming days.

  • How did you benefit creatively in the field of literary translation from your work for 18 years as a translator and reviewer in the Arabic Translation Department at the United Nations, especially since working in such bodies is characterized by technical and routine translation?

I certainly benefited a lot from my work at the International Center for Agricultural Research and the Arabic Translation Department at the United Nations. I learned perseverance and extreme accuracy in translation, striving for perfection, and my culture and perceptions expanded. This also gave me the opportunity to work with a number of senior translators in the Arab world. . As for the creative side, my benefit was not great, because the nature of the two works is very different.

From my long experience in translation in various fields and topics, I can say that literary translation remains the most difficult and enjoyable, because it is characterized by creativity, and requires specific experiences that differ from the translation of technical texts. I felt that translating literary texts during my professional work, contributes to restoring my psychological balance as a translator, and I always considered that a true translator would not be complete unless he knocked on the door of literary translation.

I felt that translating literary texts during my professional work, contributes to restoring my psychological balance as a translator, and I always considered that a true translator would not be complete unless he knocked on the door of literary translation.

  • Within days, a translation of the book “A Matter of Death and Life” by Professor Irvin Yalom and Marilyn Yalom, which is a very important book on the philosophy of life and death and meditations, stems from a true story, will be published for you. Would you place the Arab reader in the philosophical and intellectual climates in which this book moves?

In this book, we read the story and philosophy of two minds written by two distinguished professors in a clear and bold style, who were reminiscent of 65 years of their lives as a married couple and thinkers, Professor Irvin D. Yalom, and his wife, Dr. Marilyn Yalom.

The book covers a relatively short period of time, but it is a stormy and turbulent period in their lives, in which they take turns writing each chapter of the book, at the request of his wife, Marilyn, who felt close to her after suffering from plasma cell cancer.

A Matter of Death and Life is the culmination of Irvin Yalom’s tireless and long search for wisdom about the art of life and death. Yalom has written many books on psychoanalysis, and several novels dealing with philosophy and psychoanalysis, the most important of which are: “When Nietzsche cried”, “Schopenhauer’s treatment”, and “Spinoza’s problem”, which I also had the honor of translating.

“Divine Love” and the novel “The Gospel of the Poison Tree” from Khaled Al-Jubaili’s translations into Arabic (Al-Jazeera)
  • Tell us about your translation of the book “Divine Love”, written by the Iranian-American writer Omid Safi, and about his meditative mystical teachings in which he swims?

This distinguished book includes an overview of the prominent mystics and mystics in Islamic history, and collects for the first time Quranic verses and prophetic hadiths, all of which revolve around the mystical astronomy, in addition to the teachings of the path of “divine love”.

In it we read poems by Jalal al-Din al-Rumi, in addition to poems and sayings of other mystics such as Ain al-Qadat al-Hamdani, al-Kharqani, Farid al-Din al-Attar, Hafez al-Shirazi, and others.

  • You had the privilege of introducing the Arab reader to the Turkish writer Elif Shafak, through translating two of her works: “The Bastard of Istanbul” and “The Forty Rules of Love”. What are the creative artistic features and literary uniqueness that made you take the risk of translating this writer into the language of Dhad?

I was visiting the Barnes and Noble Library in New York many years ago, and I was struck by a newly published novel at the time called The Bastard of Istanbul. When I browsed the novel, I found that the writer deals with a bold topic in a smooth and beautiful manner in an environment similar to our Arab environment, so I wanted to translate this work. I wrote to the writer Elif Shafak at the time, and expressed to her my desire to translate this novel, and she welcomed it, and said that she was very happy for the Arab reader to read her work (she was not well known to the Arab reader yet).

Then her book “The Forty Rules of Love” was published, which I did not expect would receive such acceptance and admiration from Arab readers in all Arab countries upon its publication. In my opinion, the topics covered by Elif Shafak in her novels, their diversity, and their connection between the past and the present, are among the main reasons that attracted the reader to read her works.

  • How do you view the development of contemporary Turkish literature in recent decades, especially after the writer Orhan Pamuk won the Nobel Prize for Literature? What are the characteristics of this literature that made it achieve great success in the West?

Unfortunately, I do not have an extensive knowledge of contemporary Turkish literature. I think that what made the works of Turkish writers achieve this great success, such as Orhan Pamuk, Elif Shafak and others, is the uniqueness of the topics they deal with, both local and global, and the way they deal with them.

  • One of the most important principles of Sufism and their famous sayings, “The wider the vision, the narrower the phrase.” To what extent does this principle apply to the translation process as a beautiful and accurate synthesis between two texts, in which the vision of the research expands and the translation phrase narrows at the same time?

Translation is a creative process that involves linguistic and intellectual structures, structures, and structures. Therefore, the translator should have a high literary taste, and have a wide knowledge of the culture of the two languages ​​he is translating from and into, because he reformulates the original literary text in a new language, and resurrects in the translated text the spirit of a new world of Fiction, and it conveys a world of a certain peculiarity that matches – to a large degree – the world created by the original writer.

I believe that the translator must identify with the original text in order to be able to accurately convey the ideas, culture and style of the original writer, but in a new language that is completely different in terms of structures and context.

  • How do you choose the books to translate, is it personal self-discipline and the process of provocation that you get from reading the trail, or other objective motives?

I do not have exact criteria, but the criterion that guides me when choosing a book to translate is that its subject matter is interesting and useful and includes new ideas that enrich Arab culture. Many times, I suggest a job to the publisher, and other times, the publisher suggests a job, and I either accept it or apologize for accepting it according to the standard I mentioned. I don’t bother translating books by specific authors just because their names are famous in Arab countries, and the books I’ve translated are the best example of that.

  • You translated the novel as you translated poetry, so what are the differences, sensitivities and difficulties between the translation of poetry and the novel?

I translated very little poetry, and my translation of poetry is almost confined to Sufi poetry. Translation in itself – as you know – is a hard and hard work, and the translation of poetry in particular requires a great deal of sensitivity and poetic talent on the part of the translator.

“A Matter of Death and Life” and “The Crime of Birth” from Khaled Al-Jubaili’s translations into Arabic (Al-Jazeera)
  • You have translated many works by the American writer Henry Miller, what impact did this unique writer have on you?

My great admiration for the works of the famous American writer Henry Miller, the author of the unique writing that we can classify in the category of the easy to abstain, is what prompted me to translate his most important works, namely: The Pink Crucifixion Trilogy. Some friends mentioned to me that the trilogy is one of the most wonderful books they have translated.

  • In your opinion, did the Orientalists provide an addition to Arabic literature through their studies, transmission and translation of it, or did they perpetuate the orientalist colonial fantasy view?

Some orientalists rendered great services to the Arabic language and contributed to preserving it with their dictionaries. As for politicized orientalists – so to speak – perhaps their work and interests had a role that was not in the interest of literature and other than literature, and this is a topic that the thinker Edward Said addressed at length in his useful book “Orientalism”. .

  • A translation of the novel “I Wish You Were Here” by American writer Jodi Picoult, which deals with the Corona pandemic, will be published soon, so how did Picoult deal with the details of the pandemic? What is its creative equation in transferring this epidemic from reality to imagination?

The novel “I Wish You Were Here” by American Jodi Picoult is a distinguished novel, and perhaps one of the first international novels that deals with the Corona pandemic in an amazing and accurate narrative style. The novel begins on March 13, 2020, and we all know what happened on that day, when normal human life turned into one of dread and turmoil.

The young girl Diana, who specializes in marketing artworks at Sotheby’s auction house in New York, and her friend Finn, the resident doctor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, decided to spend their vacation in the Galapagos Islands, but she was surprised when her boyfriend told her that he would not be able to accompany her on that trip, because the hospital administration She announced that all doctors must stay in the hospital to help cope with the mysterious new virus that is spreading in the city.

It was expected that this crisis would end within two weeks and life would return to normal. Diana traveled alone, thinking that she would be safe on that secluded island, but when she arrived on Isabela Island in the Galapagos, she was surprised that the island would be closed for fear of an outbreak of the new virus, but decided to stay on the island.

Beautifully Picoult describes the island’s wonderful sights and the events and adventures Diana encountered there.

  • After this long experience in the field of translation, how do you view the translation movement in the Arab world?

Admittedly, we Arabs do not translate a sufficient number of books compared to other countries of the world, especially Western countries, for many reasons, the most important of which is the lack of political will on the part of Arab countries to place translation in the priorities of the literary movement, as well as the lack of qualified translators in general.

I think that the translated works issued in the Arab world are relatively reasonable, but some of these works lack the quality and accuracy of the translation, and this is due to the fact that a number of those who undertake this difficult task lack real literary talent. It is not enough to be proficient in both languages ​​- the translator and the translator into it – without the availability of the real talent and the necessary experience in literary translation.

In my opinion, it is currently difficult to achieve a unified and clear translation methodology within a unified Arab civilized cultural project.