Literary Translations and the Dilemma of Translating Unique Genres

Ghassan Aburqayeq


This essay discusses some ancient and medieval examples from Arabic culture, dealing with the task of translating genres that did not exist in the target language. By examining these historical instances, this paper demonstrates that only by adapting innovative techniques can translators translate a genre that has no equivalent in the target language. It shows that the translators must try to enter what Jacques Derrida calls “the protocol of a text” to come closer to grasping the authors’ presuppositions. While it is the responsibility of the translator to choose a suitable method to deal with the challenge of translating a foreign genre, grasping the authors’ presuppositions, understanding the conventions of the target language, and inhabiting the different mansions of the source language are crucial factors in any successful translation. Although bringing the readers to the source language helps them come closer to understand the authors intentions, it can create more complex text for audience unfamiliar with that foreign genre. Finding a similar genre in the target language can be a temporal solution, though it might go against the intentions of the original author.


Literary Translation, Maqāma, Equivalence, Ḥunayn ibn Isḥaq, Literary Genre

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