Guest Editor’s Note: The Neoclassical Bias in Translation
This is the first of two consecutive issues of JLS devoted to language and translation, specifically to the relationship between Arabic and Hebrew. In the current issue, we address the limits of the neoclassical model of translation, referring to the redefinition of translation in fifteenth-century Europe and infusing it with the spirit of the Renaissance. In a nutshell, the neoclassical model tends to individualize the translator’s identity, to privatize the spatial dimensions of translation, and to eliminate verbal dialogue.Furthermore, it dictates a forward-moving unidirectional formula of translation that usurps the original text and occupies its place; it silences any form of dialogue and replaces conversation and reciprocal dialogue with philology, linguistics, and hermeneutics. Under colonial conditions, the neoclassical model aggravates these limitations, since it reproduces in the translation room the very same asymmetry that typifies the exterior conditions and the power relations between languages. I begin this discussion by examining the emergence of the effects of the neoclassical model on translation in general, and in particular its predicament in relation to translation between Arabic and Hebrew – past, present, and future.
Dialogue with Elias Khoury on Literature and Translation
This is the protocol of a conversation conducted with the famous Lebanese writer Elias Khoury, who addresses languages, literatures, and translation.
The Drowned Library (Reflections on Found, Lost, and Translated Books and Languages)
Anton Shammas’s essay “The Drowned Library” beautifully depicts the symbiosis between Arabic and Hebrew. The drowning library is a linguistic slide freely skating between the two languages.
Dalāla, Dialogue (Maimonides, Bouteldja, and Us)
When Maimonides contemplates translation, he stages a truly fantastic scene that, ostensibly pedagogical, might also be described as dialogical, even theatrical. The scene deepens and thickens entanglements, encounters, and interpellations, the terms of which signal toward discrete yet vanishing points—one might say, signs—upon lines of unlikely geometries and implausible grammars. Between Hebrew and Arabic, “philosophy and law” (as Leo Strauss underscored), across writing and aurality, Maimonides puts meaning at play, and he does so by playing language games, doing things with signs. Of course, his book itself is, to begin with, a sign of sorts, a tangled point or pointer on fabled lines, bearing a title so notorious that it can no longer be read, much less be heard or thought. What does it mean to hear? What is within and between Hebrew and Arabic? What is at play within and between the Jew and the Arab?
Partitions and Translations: Arab Jewish Translational Models in Fin de Siècle Palestine
This article offers a new reading into translation works from early twentieth-century Palestine which operated in between the Arabic-Hebrew cultural and linguistic borderlands. Against the backdrop of the political and social events in that period which dominated by processes of national, ethnic, and religious partitions, the article explores the ways in which these Arab-Jewish translators fundamentally challenges the nationalistic and monolingual separatist ideology and represent an alternative political and cultural route. The article explores their unique translation methods that were based on four principles: Polyglot fusion—mixing Arabic and Hebrew, Jewish and Muslim traditions; loose distinction between oral and written traditions; dialogical approach that emphasizes the intertextuality of literary traditions and the intersections of languages and cultures; and the unfixed intersection between original source and translation. The fluidity that is inherent in these translation methods becomes a source of resistance to the dominant political force and dismantles any (national) claim over exclusive ownership of texts, traditions, or languages. In a time of struggle over the ownership of the (biblical) land and the (biblical) text, these translations focused on tales and traditions free from ownership and without any stable original source.
Transmutation, Semantic Shift, and Modification: Reading the Judeo-Arabic Kuzari in Hebrew and Arabic
This article is about the experience of preparing an Arabic edition of The Kuzari—the composition by Yehuda Halevi, one of the greatest Jewish poets of twelfth-century Andalusia—by an Arab researcher and translator. This experience raises many questions about cultural studies in general and translation in particular, which in turn bring up many other questions, such as how a work travels over time between different places, eras, and contexts. What changes, shifts, and modifications occur in it during its journeys and those transitions? Is it possible to bring a composition back to its authentic language, context, and landscapes, and if so, how? In this article I will try to offer answers to some of these questions, using The Kuzari as a case study, while wrestling with some of the historical, sociological, and intellectual layers of medieval Judeo-Arabic that are embedded in itand its Hebrew translations.
The Philological Revolution and the Latinization of Arabic
This article looks at the philological revolution and its influence on Oriental studies and Arabic studies in Germany generally, and on the German philological approach to Arabic studies within the Jewish community in Mandatory Palestine in particular. I argue that following this philological surge, the field of Arabic studies within the Jewish community went through a process of “Latinization”—a shift from an Arabic that is connected to daily, social life as a vehicle for communication to an Orientalist textual orientation having three clear principles: emphasis on the study of Arabic grammar, de-Arabization of the field in terms of experts and decision makers, and the treatment of Arabic as a classical language whose value lies in the past. I argue that the study of Arabic was juxtaposed with the study of Latin, which resulted in Arabic being seen not as a “living language” that is heard and used but as a language with mainly historical, religious, and disciplinary values. These Latinized pillars of Arabic studies—alongside additional sociopolitical processes that are beyond the scope of this article—had great influence in shaping the field of Arabic language studies in the Jewish community. I show how the main figures behind this shift were primarily German Jewish scholars who graduated from German universities. These scholars played a dominant role in two central, competing educational spheres in the country, in which the field of Arabic studies was forged and in which new norms of study and knowledge of Arabic were founded: The Hebrew University (where the Institute of Oriental Studies was established) and the school system (led by the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa). This new situation resulted in the creation of a new “Europeanized” Arabic in the heart of the Arab world.
More than a Mere “Welcome” – The Linguistic Landscape of Welcome Signs in Palestinian Localities in Israel
The article offers a critical reading of the linguistic landscape of welcome signs in localities of the Palestinian minority in Israel. It examines the formal visual aspects of the languages Arabic, Hebrew, and English, their placement on the signs, and the signs’ content—including the normative messages, translation, transliteration, and place-names. These analyses shed light on the links between the linguistic landscape and the sociopolitical and socioeconomic status of the Palestinian minority, as well as on the perceptions of Palestinian citizens regarding their relationship with the Jewish majority. The study reveals that despite the official status of welcome signs, their linguistic landscape presents an array of attitudes toward coping with the Israeli reality and its injustices. The study shows how the local Arab political leadership in Israel mobilizes linguistic authority as a platform for negotiation with the Jewish majority and represents a sociolinguistic strategy of highlighting a complex history while minimizing the potential for friction inherent in that space. The contents of the welcome signs to Arab localities reflect and reproduce the power structures in the State of Israel. The article demonstrates that the dichotomous division of top-down and bottom-up signs is not unequivocal and that there is room that for semiofficial space and an intermediate category between the hegemony and the subaltern.
Cloak and Dagger Exposé: Ars Poetica in the Halls of Justice
Yehouda Shenhav-Shahrabani’s text describes two bizarre scenes from the courtoom during the trial of Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, who lives in the village of Reineh ( الرينة ), near Nazareth. The Israeli police arrested Tatour in October 2015, and in November 2015 an indictment was filed against her for incitement to violence and support for a terrorist organization. At the center of the indictment appears a poem that was published on YouTube and Facebook under the title “Qawem Ya Shaabi Qawemahum” (Resist, my people, resist them). A full—and distorted—translation of the poem as made by a police officer is cited in the indictment document. Tatour remained in detention for three months, then spent eighteen months under house arrest at her parents’ home in Reineh. She was convicted on May 3, 2018, and on July 31, 2018, she was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment. She was released in September 2018.
In a Third Voice
An excerpt from the introductory chapter of Elias Khoury‘s new novel Stella Maris (Beirut: Dar Al-Adab, 2019), translated from the Arabic by Yehouda Shenhav-Shahrabani.
.(إلياس خوري, نجمة البحر: أولاد الغيتو 2 (بيروت: دارالآداب، 2019
A short story by Sama Hasan, a Palestinian author and journalist living in Gaza. She has published five collections of short stories in Arabic: City of Silence (2008); Diary of a Besieged Woman (2012); Gentle Chaos (2014); Laughter and Play, Tears and War (2015); Corners (2016). Selected stories have been translated into many languages.
A short story by Atheer Safa, who was born in Baqa al-Gharbiyya in 1984. She has an MA in Arabic language and literature from Tel Aviv University, and is an author, poet, translator, and editor. Her novel Tweet (Arabic) was published in 2013 (Dar Mirit, Egypt); it was nominated for the Arabic Booker Prize.
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