When I put my work in progress, ‘The Truck Road’ on a peer review site, one of my readers complained that he couldn’t relate to a character named Rosario. She’s Irish, she should have an Irish name, Ed said. My response to him on the discussion forum prompted an interesting exchange about stereotyping, a bugbear of mine in fiction as well as in ‘real life’. Ciaran, who later became an important beta reader for me, pointed out that readers had certain expectations and I hadn’t delivered on that score for Ed – all three of us are Irish by the way.
I recently touched on the frustrations of stereotyping with regard to Arab and Muslim-majority countries in my post ‘It’s Not Saudi, You Know’.
I was still thinking about it when this great post from arablit’s wordpress blog caught my eye, just as the supermarket book covers of veiled Arab women always do. Mlynxqualey’s blog is a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in Arab literature in the original language or in translation – please check it out.
And Western readers be warned – Adam Talib doesn’t pull his punches.
Adam Talib recently gave a talk at the American University in Cairo on “Translating for Bigots.” Talib, who is working on his fourth translated novel, posed the question — how should one translate for a prejudiced audience? — rather than answering it:
Talib began by saying that he didn’t want “to stereotype the bigot. I don’t want to say his address is in Cleveland.” After all, Talib said, one doesn’t translate Arabic literature into English for a North American or British audience, but for an audience of English-language readers worldwide.
Publishers, Talib said, can sometimes package books for bigots (see right). This packaging might be one reason why readers leap to particular conclusions about an author’s narrative. On the other hand, Talib added, he doesn’t necessarily “blame” the publishers, as he also wants to get translated Arabic literature out to a wide audience, and this might be one way to…
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