Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Translating The Book of Shapur

Julie Schwietert tells of how Leigh Shulman translated a novella written by one of her friends, an Iranian writer in exile, from Farsi into English - without knowing Farsi. Well, ok, the Iranian writer knew a fair bit of English..

Leigh Shulman is a traveler, writer, and translator currently living in Salta, Argentina, where she is developing an educational project to teach English through photography and technology. She is also editor of Matador Life. You can read more about Leigh and her travels on her blog, The Future Is Red.

An excerpt of their joint effort can be found here.

"First rule of translation, though, is the translator does not need the same level of fluency in the original language as the target language. We take the language, culture, ideology and thought process and pour it into the mold of the language we know best (...) The first step was to create a very raw and literal word-for-word translation of the piece. I sat in front of the computer typing out exactly what Ali told me. The product of that first step was completely incomprehensible, impossible to read.

Then step two. We smoothed the rough English into a real working English. Again, Ali and I sat side by side in his apartment in New York City. As we went through the sentences, I used my western United States view of the world to ask for specifics and clarification.

Language takes its culture along with it, so where ever possible we remain faithful to the original. Punctuation and sentence structure – which you’ll notice are often incorrect and misleading — follow the exact pattern of the Farsi. Alimorad designed the text this way intentionally to confuse and distract you as a reader, mimicking the way an exile feels while navigating a new land. (oh, postmodern deconstruction of our mental comfort zones).

For all your English to Arabic and vice versa translations that will help you expand your business into the Middle East visit Arabic Language Experts at


leigh said...

Thanks for writing about The Book of Shapur. It was an amazing experience to be able to work with my close friend Ali on this novella.

I also wanted to mention that you can download the entire book on my website as well.

Half the proceeds go to support The International Rescue Committee in supporting international development.

leigh said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Linguanerd said...

You are welcome, Leigh. Feel free to write here what the Committee is about..

I will also repost my blog entry on other forums that I participate in, so that you get more coverage.