Contemporary Saudi Fiction in English Translations A Bibliographic and Analytical Study of the Methodology of the English Translation of the novel Jāhilīyah
GHAZAL MUHAMMED SULTAN ALHARBI
Saudi Digital Library
Literary translation has long been regarded as a tool for facilitating cultural exchanges between the Eastern and Western parts of the globe. In the field of literature, the growth of fiction writing in Arab countries has motivated many translators to translate Arabic fiction to introduce the Arab world and its traditions to Western readers. However, the big question is whether these translations lead to a kind of exoticism or “orientalism” or do justice to literary qualities of Arabic original texts. My dissertation discusses the factors promoting the writing of contemporary Saudi fiction and its translation internationally into English. It also analyzes the particular role these translations have played in representing Saudi culture to foreign audiences. The study takes two approaches. First, I conduct bibliographic research to present a brief account of the development of Saudi fiction. I follow this same method again to compile the works of contemporary Saudi fiction that have been translated into English and to illustrate how those works were selected for translation. In the second approach, I investigate the method used to translate one contemporary Saudi novel titled Jāhiliyah, translated into English as Days of Ignorance. The study shows that even though there is a wide variety of novels produced in Saudi Arabia today, Western publishers have valued certain works more for their political and ideological content rather than for their creative and esthetic qualities. The translated novel Days of Ignorance is less a novel than a document of political conditions. This results in a misrepresentation of the larger cultural framework and a distorted view of Saudi social values. The research indicates that the English translation of Saudi fiction, and Arabic fiction in general, leads to translations that amplify only negative stereotypes of the Arabic and Islamic culture by constructing an exotic "other" that is radically different from western culture, often in a negative way. This minimizes the aesthetic appreciation of literary products from Arab world and hinders the use of literary translation as a tool for encouraging communication, mutual respect, and understanding between different cultures.