Amputated Tongue: On the Potential for Change in a Political Act of Translation
Be-lashon kruta (Amputated tongue) is a collection of Palestinian prose published by the Maktoobseries in 2019. It is the most comprehensive collection of Palestinian literature ever published in Hebrew, in terms of both quantity and the period covered. It is also the richest collection of its kind in terms of the variety of authors and the most complex in terms of translation methodology. In this article we focus on Be-lashon kruta, its place and importance within the local field of Arabic-to-Hebrew translations, and the new model that lies at its heart: a novel binational and bilingual dialogical approach to Arabic-to-Hebrew translation that addresses a number of lacunas that have accompanied this field. We first focus on the significance of Be-lashon kruta, looking at the collection’s title as both a metaphor and an indication of a broader process and attitude in which the Palestinian voice was not heard and remained unspoken in Hebrew. We then deal with the challenges of asymmetry in translation generally and in the Arabic-to-Hebrew field more particularly. We conclude with a survey of the Maktoob model of translation as an answer to these ongoing lacunas.
Lost (and Gained) in Translation: Reflections on Translation and Translators of al-Jabarti’s Chronicles of the French Occupation of Egypt
The translation from Arabic into Hebrew of Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti’s chronicles of the 1798–1801 French occupation of Egypt is at the center of the reflections on translations and translators in this article. The first part briefly describes approaches to translation and the challenges one faces when translating historical texts. It brings to the fore the role that translation and translators played in shaping the events described in al-Jabarti’s chronicles, as well as in the ways in which translation and translators shaped the documents al-Jabarti used as his sources. The second part of the article looks closely at Jean-Michel Venture de Paradis, the chief interpreter of the French army in Egypt and Bonaparte’s advisor during the first year of the occupation. Venture de Paradis was a professional dragoman in the French consulates at the ports of the Levant during the last decades of the eighteenth century, and his training, his writings, and his practices as dragoman demonstrate the continuities and changes in France’s policies toward and interests in the Ottoman Empire in the second half of the eighteenth century. This was the time during which the French political system was changing from the monarchy of the ancien régime to the republic that followed the Revolution.
Translations and translators, never neutral but often under-reported in the historical account, played an important role in shaping the events and how they were narrated and recorded at the time; they also shape the ways these are understood in the present.
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What Is Anticolonial Translation? The Form and Content of Binational Resistance in Maktoob
This essay examines translation as an anticolonial literary form in the context of contemporary translation theory and activist translation practices in Palestine/Israel. Analyzing the impact of colonial paradigms on language, culture, and translation, it demonstrates that Arabic-to-Hebrew translation practices have been used to both instantiate and challenge existing colonial structures. With a focus onMaktoob, the first Palestinian-Jewish translation collective, it goes on to analyze the methods used by progressive translation groups to resist racism, occupation, and colonialism and to democratize the Israeli cultural sphere over the past seventy years. It argues that Maktoob’s unique contribution to this tradition emerges from its commitment to a systemic decolonization of the processes surrounding translation. Binational, bilingual translation, the collective’s working model, combines content-based approaches with formal, linguistic, and structural innovations in translation processes. The explicit aim of this model is to erode colonial effects such as Orientalism, cultural erasure, ethnoseparatism, literary theft, and the linguistic division between Arabic and Hebrew, and to establish a model that promotes democratic cultural participation among Jews and Palestinians. The essay demonstrates the continued influence of cultural decolonization on contemporary literary production and offers new insights into what this means for translation theory and practice.
Guest Editors’ Note: From the Neoclassical to the Binational Model of Translation
Literary translation—whether a branch within comparative literature, linguistics, hermeneutics, or elsewhere in the academic disciplinary maze—has grown and developed mainly in accordance with the European neoclassical tradition. The previous issue of JLS was dedicated to the critique of the neoclassical model’s supposed transparency and impartial representation of the original source, allegedly trying to reach a “fluent” translation of the original.
To cope with translation from Arabic to Hebrew under the conditions of the present time, the Translators’ Circle in Maktoob proposes a pragmatic model of translation that transcends the comfort zone and is open to negotiation and a dialogical process of movement and wrestling in a dynamic relationship of dialogue. Although the model is fraught with practical, economic, and empirical difficulties, and is not necessarily pragmatic, it relies on the philosophy of pragmatism, according to which translation is not only a textual achievement but also action in the real world, which seeks to overcome the elements of alienation and degeneration of the individual, nationalistic portrait of translation. The translation turns from a metatext, which is placed behind the text and whose function is to explain and illuminate, into a social text, as a basis for communication and for expression of collective consciousness. In other words, and paraphrasing Ferdinand de Saussure’s notion that language should be studied in and for itself, we argue that translation is not only a thing in and for and of itself but also a communication tool, a byproduct of a comprehensive political process. To this end it expands the concept of intertextuality from hermeneutics to sociology. That is, intertextuality is not just an encounter between textual units, as is commonly the case in the fields of hermeneutics, linguistics, and literature, but also an interactive sociological mechanism based on encounter and reciprocity between people.
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