Arabic books translated to English increase due to geopolitics: Study
A new study shared at the Frankfurt Book Fair reveals the noticeable increase in Arabic books translated to English and attributes the reason to geopolitical events and the increase in professional translators.
Arabic books being translated into the English language have been remarkably rising, a new study shared at the Frankfurt Book Fair revealed.
The European non-profit Literature Across Frontiers has conducted a research between 2010 and 2020, after which it found 596 literary translations of fiction, poetry, drama, and non-fiction books from Arabic into English. The number of similar works was only 310 between 1990 to 2010.
The study’s co-author and lecturer in translation and interpreting at Cardiff University, Abdel-Wahab Khalifa, attributes the main reason for the growing interest in Arabic literature to the present news and affairs.
“Whenever there is a geopolitical event, you'll find a spike in the numbers of translations from Arabic into English,” Khalifa said.
The translated works come from Egypt, which leads the list with 127 books, Iraq with 114, Palestine with 71, Syria with 65, and Lebanon with 61.
Other countries include Saudi Arabia with 22 and the UAE with 11.
A benefit of these surges of interest, the study adds is the translators' professionalism and the Arabic publishers' adoption of better business practices.
Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz comes out on top in terms of the regional authors who have the most translated works available in the UK and Ireland, as 16 of his titles have been rendered into English.
Fellow Egyptian Nawal El Saadawi comes next and is followed by Sudanese novelist Amir Tag Elsir and Iraqi poet Adnan Al-Sayegh. Each of these authors has six books translated.
Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury has five works translated and Palestinian poet Najwan Darwish has four.
Khalifa was content about the increase of non-academic Arabic women translators entering the industry through training courses and workshops that UK literary organizations, such as the Poetry Translation Centre, provides.
"There is also that welcome change in that they are women of colour, they are more diverse and that their mother tongue may not perhaps be English," he said.
"They are doing really great work but there is still an obvious disparity between the number of males and female translators that will hopefully change over the years.”
Khalifa added that more work needs to be accomplished in the Arab world to ensure that such as growth continues.
"I am hoping that we will see more funding offered to Arab publishers right from the start of the editing process to support their writers, instead of putting that work as an extra burden on the shoulders of translators,” he said.