Emerging Arabic-Polish translator Aleksandra Lasota-Barańska is a student of Arabic language and Islamic Culture at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland. She has a few publications and is now looking to publish her first translated collection, of Najwan Darwish’ poems. She answered a few questions for ArabLit about the landscape of Arabic literature in Polish:
Lasota-Barańska also oversees a new literary initiative, Bab al-Adab, which she says is focused on promoting contemporary Arabic literature in Poland. “This is the very first trial of consecutive translating short stories, excerpts, essays and other works from the Arab part of the world and about it. The project is run in frames of Solidarity with Maghreb – a new programme of Lech Walesa Institute in Poland.”
ArabLit: What is the relationship, historically, between Arabic and Polish literatures? Do you know what sort of Polish books are translated into Arabic?
Aleksandra Lasota-Barańska: Kitab alf layla wa-layla (A Thousand and One Nights) is considered to be the very first work translated from Arabic into Polish by A.Galland. It has been almost 300 years since that time. Interest in Arabic literature was seen in era of Polish Romanticism, but most of the books available back then were translated from the other European languages. Even the most known Polish national poet Adam Mickiewicz, was influenced by those literature and translated some qasida’s of al-Mutanabbi (of course not from Arabic).
Then, untill the second half of the 20th century, we can see stagnation in this subject. After the WWII Poland, was in the clasp of a communist regime, and that turbulent time brang contemporary Arabic literature. Back then, there appeared a translation of Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfuz (from Arabic), The Prophet by Jibran Khalil Jibran (from English), and Talisman by Mohammed Dib (from French).
AL: What sorts of Arabic books have been translated into Polish?
We mostly translate belles-lettres or histories of women hurt by Islam or Arabs (unfortunately), but everything depends on the personal taste of a translator. That is why we had Mahfuz’s works translted long before he was granted a Nobel prize.
A L-B: When reviewing the list of books translated until now into Polish, one cannot see any particular method or key accompanying the process of choosing work. We mostly translate belles-lettres or histories of women hurt by Islam or Arabs (unfortunately), but everything depends on the personal taste of a translator. That is why we had Mahfuz’s works translted long before he was granted a Nobel prize.
Nowadays there are few, very active Polish translators who try to bring out modern Arabic Literature like Hassan Blasim, Rabee Jaber or Youssef Rakha. Although still, the number of those works is very small. In Polish, you can read also At-Tayyib Salih, Ghassan Kanafani, Abdul Rahman Munif, Leila Aboulela, Ala al-Aswany, etc. Some of the translations are also done through the third language like English for instance.
AL: Do you know what sort of Polish books are translated into Arabic?
A L-B: When it comes to Polish works available in Arabic, there are very few of them due to a small number of translators. As far as I know Hatif Janabi translates from Polish into Arabic. You can get works of Witold Gombrowicz, Wieslawa Szymborska, Adam Mickiewicz, Czeslaw Milosz, Juliusz Slowacki, Zbigniew Herbert, Tadeusz Rozewicz, Stanislaw Grochowiak, Adam Zagajewski, Edward Stachura, Rafal Wojaczek, Ryszard Kapuscinki and Leszek Kolakowski.
AL: How many novels a year, or a decade, are translated from Arabic into Polish? Was there greater interest in Arabic literature after Naguib Mahfouz won the Nobel? Or after September 2001? Or February 2011? Were there any particular events, authors, or changes that made Polish readers more interested in Arabic literature?
A friend of mine – translator from Arabic to Polish – counted that until now there are only about 30 Arabic novels translated into Polish. I’m not sure about the average of published books, but for instance in this year we had at least three new books — Hassan Blasim, Rabee Jaber and Youssef Rakha
A L-B: A friend of mine – translator from Arabic to Polish – counted that until now there are only about 30 Arabic novels translated into Polish. I’m not sure about the average of published books, but for instance in this year we had at least three new books — Hassan Blasim, Rabee Jaber and Youssef Rakha — I think there might be more of them but this are the only ones I know.
AL: Who are some of the Arabic-Polish literary translators working today?
A L-B: There are a number of Arabic-Polish translators working today. Some fo them are: Jolanta Kozłowska – she translates Mahfuz; Janusz Danecki; Agnieszka Piotrowska; Marcin Michalski; Marek Dziekan; Paweł Siwiec; Magdalena Kubarek.
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