Lost in Translation

Disclaimer: Arabic is my first language. Whatever I say in this post doesn’t negate the fact that I love both Arabic and English as languages and see beauty in both.
No, okay that was obvious. Rewind.

Disclaimer: This post has an interesting twist in the middle

(I’m also getting better at disclaimers)

There are many pages on social media that share beautiful, beautiful Arabic poetry. Sometimes it’s just a few lines that make my insides in awe, and sometimes, it takes a couple of stanzas to get my heart melting. I know Facebook is not the best place to discover things like poetry, because if you want to appreciate and know something you ought to get to the classics of it. But these pages turned my head onto the world of Arabic poetry in general. Also, some of the pages didn’t even share poetry in the sense that we know it, maybe a sentence that was enough to get things going within.

To be ultra-honest, I’m not an Arabic reader. So finding a poetry book that would suit my somewhat basic Arabic-reader-knowledge (there’s probably an actual word for this), required lengthy research and surveying.

First, I had to know which genre I preferred. So I went back to FB to see what are the kinds of things I was regularly sharing. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pinpoint and be specific about a genre, so I resorted to nationalistic, revolutionary type poetry as I knew these topics were guaranteed to get my attention.

My closest friends are non-Arabs. When I became such a huge fan of Arabic writing, I was regularly sharing such posts and they noticed this change in my interests.

On one amusing occasion I was asked to translate:
كل مُرٍ..سيمُرُّ
تشبهين الليلةَ التي يموت فيها الطغاه و تنتصر الثورة
هناك كلام لا يقول شيء، وهناك صمت يقول كل شيء

And I know this translation is a piece of cake.. But it sort of loses its lure after it’s in English. I’m not saying English is not expressive, I’m just saying that some things sound so much more powerful in their native language. Also maybe due to the fact that some statements have a cultural background to them.

Things like puns, certain types of jokes and satires, just lose their depth and elegance during translation. I’m no expert in linguistics, but I presume these are challenging areas in translation.

And so that was the twist ladies and gents, this post is not about my journey towards Arabic texts but about the moments in which you’re stuck in front of the screen, tongue-tied, unable to explain to your friend across all borders that the writing you just shared is so astoundingly beautiful.

These moments made me smile though because other native languages have things that I wouldn’t even find amusing or impressive even after explanation. So life’s fair. Just not that fair if you want to show others this beauty.

So I got these two Arabic books which seemed poetic to me, but I still didn’t read them:

في القدس – لتميم البرغوثي
كأن العمر..ما كانا – لفاروق جويدة

Also some pages which write nice Arabic posts:







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