Let’s assume that you are completely and equally fluent in two languages. Someone gives you two books as a gift – one is a book you are genuinely interested in reading, while the second is an excellent translation of the same book in the other language in which you are equally fluent. Which one would you read, and why?

This hypothetical question serves as a good introduction to the rather thorny subject of translation.

A cursory look at translation studies’ books and general debates on the subject demonstrates that, first, the profession of translation has undergone several transformations and, second, these debates are anything but settled.

Ask someone about the history of French literature and they might recite a couple of Voltaire quotes before extolling the virtues of Victor Hugo and challenging the ideas of Camus.

Ask about German literature and they will perhaps tell you about the Brothers Grimm before mourning the late, great Günter Grass.

Ask about Arabic literature, however, and, well, they’ve probably heard of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights and … that’s often as far as their experience goes.

It can feel, to those in and from the West, that Arabic literature and literary tradition is a something we would never have the time to catch up with. From romantic poets, religious texts and revolutionary philosophers, there’s simply too much reading to get through – we could never get to a point where we might understand the references and canon well enough to enjoy the modern output.

The Jerusalem International Writers Fest was held mid-May, just two weeks before the Palestine Festival of Literature was staged all across historic Palestine. At the Jerusalem festival, there was no apparent recognition of Arabic literature, despite the city’s large (~34%) Arab population. How can that be? asks blogger “Arablit”: Your Middle East

At the opening ceremony of the Jerusalem International Writers Festival, author Dror Mishani decried this lack:

More and more, Hebrew literature is being created from itself, within itself, contrary to the way that it has been created over the centuries – with too little dialogue with foreign literatures – and even turning its back to languages and literatures around and inside it.

Once a tiny minority in Arabic literature, science fiction, horror and thrillers are getting a boost: Al Jazeera

At the end of April, the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) turned seven years old. That’s when the prize named its eighth winner: the acclaimed Frankenstein in Baghdad, by Iraqi author Ahmed Saadawi.

As is tradition, Saadawi’s win was announced on the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which ran from April 29-May 5. This year’s announcement was met by cheers in the Hilton ballroom and echoingdelight across social media. Saadawi was the first Iraqi to take the prize and fellow Iraqis were particularly happy. When the fair opened the next morning, copies of the winning novel sold briskly.

naguib-mahfouzThe quotation “Events at home, at work, in the street- these are the bases for a story” was said by the famous Egyptian writer, Naguib Mahfouz.  Mahfouz is a well-known Egyptian novelist who won the Nobel Prize in 1988 for Arabic literature. His works are considered to be a revolution in the world of literary works. His writings are very symbolic and his novels are a pure representation of the Egyptian society. He is the father of Arabic literature.