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Monday, March 13, 2006

Translated Literature

I used to be against reading translated literature, as I preferred reading a book in the writer's own words. That is why I used to read either Arabic or English books. These days I tried to give translated books a try.

I decided to start with Paulo Coelho. A Brazilian writer who became one of the most widely read authors in the world today. His novel, The Alchemist, was translated into 59 languages and more than 56 million books were sold worldwide. Coelho has won many international awards, amongst them the Crystal Award by the World Economic Forum and France's Legion d'Honneur.

I started reading The Alchemist, as it is considered to be Coelho's masterpiece, then moved to Veronica Decides to Die, then The Zahir, and finally The Fifth Mountain.
In fact, I read the above mentioned novels not because I loved the author but because I wanted to know what is it so special about him.

In my opinion, I find Coelho a good writer. I liked in his novels the suspense element he adapts to keep the person reading till the end. I exclude The Zahir as I found it just a diary of a man deceived by his wife. However, I couldn't find that special thing that made him a worldwide read author!

Unconscientiously, I found myself comparing him to the Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz. He was born in Cairo in 1911, began writing when he was seventeen. His first novel was published in 1939. The appearance of the Cairo Trilogy, Bayn al Qasrayn, Qasr al Shawq, Sukkariya (Place Walk, Palace of Desire, Sugar Street) in 1957 made him famous throughout the Arab world as a depicter of traditional urban life. With The Children of Gebelawi (1959), he began writing again, in a new vein that frequently concealed political judgments under allegory and symbolism. In 1988 He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Not to mention of course many prestigious awards as the State Recognition Award in Literature in 1968, the Decoration of Republic of the 1st Order in 1972 and the Collar of the Nile which is the highest order in Egypt in 1988.

He is now the author of almost thirty-two novels, thirteen collections of short stories, and more than two hundred articles. Half of his novels were adapted for the cinema, theater and television which have circulated throughout the Arabic-speaking world. He describes in his novels the life in the old Egyptian alleys accurately. You feel that the characters in the book are alive and showing every tiny detail. His work deeply steeped in local reality.
Since the appearance of his first translated novel Midag Alley-(Zakakel)in 1966, his novels have been translated into many foreign languages including both the English and the French languages.

Midag Alley (also spelt Midaq Alley) was adapted for the Mexican Cinema 1995 staring Ernesto Gomez Cruz, Maria Rojo and the Hollywood actress Salma Hayek who is Mexican born yet came from an Arabic origin.

Posted by Wonderer :: 10:54 AM :: 28 comments

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