Alaa Al Aswany reveals the key to translating literature into other languages.
al Aswany: The translation of literature is much more than searching the meaning of the words, you see? Translate a literary text means simply to be able to reproduce the text with the same criteria and the same artistic power in another language, which is not… I mean, not everybody could do this. I was translated to 22 languages and I can judge only for English, French and Spanish, because these are the languages I read, but I can, I follow, I get the feedback through some friends, for example, the Italian translation, I had some feedback from a friend, an Italian writer who said that it was not very good in some text, so I told my publisher and we fixed it up, you see. But I think that I was [fine] with the translation. For the English translation I had two translators, Farouk Mustafa who is the head of the Department of the Arab Literature in Chicago University, and I had Humphrey Davies, who is very known in Egypt is a translator. He translated Naguib Mahfouz before, and I’m very satisfied with both of them. I think that when I wrote, as a matter of fact, before an article with the title “The Republic of Literature” in the sense that I believe that when you become a reader of fiction and you have before a good fiction, then readers become just readers, you see. You don’t, I haven’t seen really very basic difference between the people before the art, before the art of fiction. They become just human beings who would like really to enjoy reading and who can communicate with the characters on human [basis], and I believe this is one very precious role of literature because literature is reaching us basically that we could be different in color or could be different in religion or could be different in culture but we are having the same human heart and we are having basically the same human feelings, and that’s how I see literature.