Literary Translation as a Link Between Past and Present

Literary Translation as a Link Between Past and Present


Translation is really important to globalization. Translation itself — in English, as in Arabic
— is a word that originally meant “to move across” or “to carry something across.” It really is about, not just the movement
of text, or the movement of meaning, but it is also the movement of material objects across
space. There’s never any translation that occurs
without transformation. One of the examples from my work of translation
changing over time is the translation of The Count of Monte Cristo, which was translated
at least eight times within 15 years. In The Count of Monte Cristo, if you look
at the beginning, you have Edmond Dantès, who’s the hero, he comes back to Marseille
on this ship and it passes by this island. And so, in this one, the ship just comes. It just arrives. In the 1871 Cairo edition, he arrives having
passed by an island that was heavily guarded. And so, you can see, in fact, that even the
transportation of goods, and of peoples, in this, moves from being one that is vaguely
unregulated, but in these other two, you see structures of power and governance that make
travel complicated. And so, understanding meaning is a process
of understanding the linkages between peoples and times and places.

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