Translating Ghurba: Dayzi al-Amir’s short story “Mist”

Background

It is difficult to place Dayzi al-Amir (b. 1935) into one category of immigrant. She isn’t a refugee, not exactly a traveler, nor political exile proper, but spent her life in a few different countries, including some time in England and the United States. This experience is recorded in her short stories, as her heroines seem to constantly be in between places and languages. Though the story translated below was originally written more than 40 years ago, in a different political context, the experience and feelings of alienation al-Amir expresses in the story are something I find myself facing today as a transnational product of the Arab diaspora.  I have grown increasingly intimate with these in-between feelings in adulthood, as I try to find my place between cities, languages, and cultures.  As I translated Dayzi al-Amir’s story into English, I felt as if I were telling my own story, echoing the text in English, and working together with the author to express both of our feelings of homelessness.

I became interested in Dayzi al-Amir when I came upon a 1994 English translation of her works. The English subtitle of the thin volume stuck out to me, The Waiting List: An Iraqi Woman’s Tales of Alienation.[1]  Reading Dayzi al-Amir’s stories about being in-between, her psychological, self-conscious style of narration and the familiar theme of alienation drew me in.  I found myself identifying with the narrator of the stories, not only her because we come from the same country (which isn’t named in her stories), but because of her experience as a transnational woman who has lost her sense of home.

Daisy al-Amir was born in Alexandria but educated in Iraq, where she studied Arabic literature at the University of Baghdad and sculpture at the Institute of Fine Arts.  She spent some time studying in Cambridge in 1963, but when her father refused to pay tuition for her to continue her studies, she was forced to leave England (Cooke 8).  al-Amir returned not to the turbulent revolutionary Iraq but to Beirut, Lebanon where she began a career working at the Iraqi Embassy as press attaché.[2] She started writing in 1962 and published her first story in the Lebanese literary magazine al-Adab in 1962.[3]

al-Amir published her first collection of short stories, al balad al-ba’eed allathi tuhibbuhu (The Distant Country You Love) in 1964 and it is this collection I was drawn to translate the most. About this collection al-Amir says “The title carried the meaning of all the memories and longings, scattered here and there among the places I knew inside and outside Iraq. Although I treasured these memories, I also felt them as an unwanted burden bearing down on me”.[4]  The title, The Distant Country You Love stuck out to me, the conceptualization of Iraq, the homeland, from the outside.  The weight of distant memories and imaginings of her homeland are expressed in the story I decided to translate, ḍabab (Mist).  In the story Mist, Iraq is not only a country or a place, it is the embodiment of memories and of personal loss. Iraq is not far away in the physical sense only (al-Amir was in nearby Lebanon when she published the stories), but far in the figurative sense: impossible, unattainable, no longer discernible like the distant past and foggy memories.  This is the sense of the story which I chose to translate and the sense of ghurba that Arabs of the diaspora are all too familiar with.

 

Identity, Authorship and the Writing Project

I chose the story Mist with Gayatri Spivak’s advice to would-be translators in mind, that the translator should be “intimate” with the text and its language. At times it is hard to feel intimate with fusha (formalized) Arabic, but I felt more familiar with the word choice of an Iraqi woman’s fusha than I usually do reading the writings of Arabs from different nationalities. The story utilizes a type of Arabic and word choice that I could identify with.  I felt closer to writer due to both phrasing and a relatable in-between experience. The story, Mist¸ is representative of a generation of Arabic exile writing.  It is a short burst detailing the mental reflections of an Arab outsider, charged with the political vocabulary of ghurba¸ international experience, and homesickness.  While this story is originally Dayzi al-Amir’s, I feel that the English translation is an expression of my own story

Translation has been theorized over the centuries as a secondary practice, a feminine, “reproductive” practice dependent on masculine creative genius.  This binary of “productive” and “reproductive” and questions surrounding the “fidelity” of the translation to her master/husband/original have dominated the field of translation studies until recently. Feminist theorists are challenging this mode of thinking and reconceptualizing the act of translation as an intimate relationship between author and translator.  In her overarching study, Gender in Translation (1996), Sherry Simon refers to Susan Bassnett’s point about how contemporary translation studies are challenging “the old binary concept of translation [which] saw original and translated text as two poles, seeking instead to conceptualize translation as a dynamic activity fully engaged with cultural systems” (Simon 12).  The conventional way of thinking of translation “supposes an active original and a passive translation” (Ibid. 11) which feminist translators should resist. Susan Bassnett advocates an “orgasmic” contemporary translation theory that encourages the creation of “a new whole in an encounter that is mutual, pleasurable and respectful” (Ibid. 13).

In my “encounter” with Dayzi al-Amir’s story, I tried to keep this in mind.  As I hoped to create something with this text, I respected the text and opened myself to the text. At the same time being mindful and taking responsibility for my translation, the “new whole” the author and I created. Gayatri Spivak in her “Politics of Translation” calls translation “the most intimate act of reading” and writes how she “surrenders” to the text when she translates (Spivak 298).  Her imagery brings to mind and subverts the sexist, conventional gendered metaphorics that is used to describe translation, a metaphorics that reflects sexist hierarchies, a metaphorics that are a symptom of “larger issues of Western culture and in particular of the anxieties involved in establishing and maintaining borders” (Simon 10).  By surrendering to the text and getting out of the “confines of one’s identity” (Spivak 397), a translator can find “the trace of the other in the self” (Ibid.) and partake in a creative, subversive act.

In my translation of this Arabic language text, a woman’s text, I do not wish to be invisible, I do not wish to take violently and bring into English her experience, but be responsible for my actions and make my agenda known.  For Sherry Simon, translation is more than rendering a story in another language, translation is a “mode of engagement with literature… a kind of literary activism…translators are necessarily involved in a politics of transmission” (Simon, ix).  Translation for me is a way to express and transmit my own experience as a cultural stranger and homeless transnational.  It is a creative act that I do by drawing on my knowledge and intimacy with my mother tongue and while resisting my diasporic homeland’s often racist and sexist political agenda.  Choices made in the creative act of translation are necessarily political and “contribute to cultural debates and create a new lines and cultural communication” (Ibid.).  My translation is a knowingly political act, it is an attempt towards creating a dialogue about the experience of a transnational, alienated Arab woman without dissolving, domesticating, exoticizing or Anglicizing her voice.

In light of my readings in critical and feminist translation theories, I find myself scrutinizing some of the publisher’s choices in the 1994 translation of  The Waiting List. My first question when finding this book was about the transliteration of the author’s name into an English “equivalent”–Daisy. This made me question the heritage of Dayzi al-Amir, did she come from an Anglo background? Neither this “Anglicization” of her name or any other translation issues are addressed in the publication, printed by an academic press. There are no translator’s notes.  The volume is prefaced by Professor Mona Mikhail’s contextualization of the writer in Iraqi and Arabic literary history and a (probably translated) author’s preface wherein al-Amir outlines her writing career and personal circumstances. There is an acknowledgements page written by the editor, but nothing from the translator, the creator of the contents. The translator is silent. Other than her name on the cover and in the acknowledgements, the translator is invisible.  No notes on translation problems, no mission statement.

Sherry Simon contends that feminist translators are engaged, along with their original authors, in a ” writing project” and that the translator must be aware of the shared writing project and be faithful to it (Simon 2).  Dayzi al-Amir’s writing expresses her personal state of alienation in a larger context of 20th century Arab “immigration to the north” and away from politically unstable homelands.  Her writing is based in a context of loss and nostalgia and her writing project seems to be the demystification of the transnational experience, or expressing the woe of a woman lost between places. In Arab Women Writers¸ Ferial Ghazoul describes al-Amir’s work as  “more concerned with the psychological dimension of fiction than with external action. [al-Amir] … focuses on women’s unease in their social surroundings” (Ghazoul 193).  Although I am an Iraqi American, and Dayzi al-Amir is from a different generation, social and political context, her experience as an outsider and as a woman without a home struck a chord with me.  Her concerns are also my and other diaspora Arabs’ concerns. Her literary project is close to mine and I hope to express her ideas and feelings in English to diaspora Arabs who cannot otherwise have access to her works.

Similar to Dayzi al-Amir’s heroines, diaspora Arabs find themselves feeling awkward in their adopted nations and cultures, having a hard time bridging their upbringing or family traditions with the external culture of the their present location.  In the story Mist, al-Amir’s heroine is extremely uncomfortable walking in a foreign, cold, English-speaking land where she “longer had any of the special significance that she enjoyed in her country” (Al-Amir 62).  She is unable to express herself like she did at home; most of the story is made up of internal reflections and the character only speaks a few words in the story: an angry “No!” and a passive, mindless response to the stranger who helps her at the end of the story.  By making the story of an Arab woman who is lost in the fog speak English, I hope to bridge the gap between her and diaspora Arabs who don’t read Arabic, and to other English readers in the adopted nations of Arab diaspora members.

 

Translating the Untranslatable and Practical Solutions

            This following section is an attempt at addressing the practical and meta-textual issues of rendering  a surreal reflection on a certain culturally-bound mode of being, a story of ghurba, into English. Susan Bassnett notes in her book, Translation Studies, that there is a “large body” of work written about the translation of poetry, and that “far less time” has been given to studying the translation of literary prose. This is due to the “widespread erroneous notion that a novel is somehow a simpler structure than a poem and is consequently easier to translate” (Bassnett 110).  It make sense that poetry would receive more attention, with the importance of its form, rhyme and music.  However, prose also has many features that need to be taken into account when translating from language to language. The issues I faced in my trial include the challenge of respecting the “rhetoric nature” of the Arabic language (Spivak 398) and maintaining the “underlying networks of signification” in the short story (Berman 292).  This included the translation of culturally and politically charged words and an untranslatable idiom that captures the essence of the story’s problem in three words.

The story follows a woman walking to her friend’s house in a cold, foreign, English-speaking land as a blanket of fog starts to thicken.  Distracted, the character finds herself alone and lost, without a concept of where she is, how to get to her planned destination or back home. As the fog settles on the street and makes it impossible for her to find her way, she reflects on her state of loneliness, the way she has grown into a life of solitude, cold, and isolation.  The story makes use of the fog as a metaphor for the Arab émigré’s state of alienation, ghurba, one of the main themes of al-Amir’s work.  Mist (and the majority of al-Amir’s other writings) features an unnamed transnational female protagonist, caught in between places and languages,  traveling while losing her identity, direction, and sense of self.

This homeless nostalgic mode of existence and figurative place named al ghurba is a major theme in modern Arabic literature, and no English word quite captures its essence. It is one of the many culturally weighty, repeated politically charged words that pose a challenge to the Arabic-English translator of al-Amir’s work.  In Mist the main character writes how difficult it is to describe explain ghurba to “the people in this country,” when she thinks of her family and thinks about how she is so far from home.  She recalls the idiom “al-ghurba tuḍayi’ al-aṣl” which she thinks is impossible to translate to English speakers.  On idioms and proverbs, Antoine Berman writes, “a proverb may have its equivalence in other languages but… these equivalents do not translate it. To translate is not to search for equivalences” (Berman 295).  The above proverb does not have an equivalent in English because al ghurba is a politically charged, post-colonial state of being completely foreign to the English language. I chose, after several attempts to translate this short but grammatically resistant idiom, to transliterate and hope that the reader of the story would know some Arabic and have some familiarity with the concept ghurba. I have also provided the original Arabic script, explained the impossibility of its translation and provided different interpretations of this idiom in a footnote at the end of the story.

Even if the idiom is not completely understood by the English reader, after reading the story, one may be able start to understand the feeling of ghurba through al-Amir’s natural metaphor.  The story ends with al-Amir’s heroine lost, unmoving in a daze.  In addition to the fog metaphor, al-Amir uses other smaller anecdotes in the story to explain the reality of ghurba. She explains to the reader the importance of family (al ahl) by telling a story about her brother when he went abroad, recalling her mother’s feelings and advice.  The importance of family is evident in how often al-Amir juxtaposes the cold, dark, and loneliness she feels in the English-speaking country with the warmth, sun, and family that are in her homeland.  Keeping this repetition in the English translation without changing the words helped bring emphasis to the opposition of home and al ghurba.

At times, I was tempted to use two words to capture what I thought was the “full meaning” of a single weighty, meaningful, repeated word, a method Antoine Berman calls “quantitative loss”. (Berman 292).  In the end I settled on “loneliness” for wahsha and “gloom” for dhalam. “Dark” didn’t seem to pack as much of the emotional oppression of dhalam and “isolated” didn’t sound as emotional as “loneliness”. These words are repeated numerously in the story, and I decided to stick with the same translation every time, hoping that their repetition would add to their meaning.

Grammatical gender, which is found in almost every Arabic phrase presented itself as less of a problem but an opportunity to be creative with the text. At times when the main character is reflecting on her situation, thinking hypothetically, the reflections take on a masculine subject.[5] Where mainstream English would encourage the use of neutral “it” or “one”, I favored using feminine gendered words, not the masculine gender of the original.  This was done in order to subvert accepted writing practices and to emphasize the female voice of what were feminine reflections on an undeniably female immigrant experience.  The character is walking down a road when a man approaches her and asks her to go to a movie, and the subsequent worries about her behavior, her image on the street, and intimate memories are undeniably personal and female.  Where the original Arabic used the masculine to denote generalization, my English translation used the feminine to emphasize feminine, personal space that the heroine/author enters during her reflections. In other instances, the grammatical gender of personified inanimate concepts (“Fate” and “the Sky”), was carried into the English.  This allowed the English reader’s conceptualization of these things be influenced by the Arabic classification, adding to the balancing act of translation.

As mentioned above, one technique used in the story is the repetition of the characteristics of the heroine’s home in contrast to characteristics of al ghurba.  In Arabic, words in serial lists are separated by an infinite number of was, a style completely different from English lists which are split by commas and a final and.  al-Amir repeats short lists several times in the story.  In my translation, some of these lists are codified and repeated using the accepted English style of punctuating serial lists.  In the case of a unique descriptive list, the ands were retained to maintain the disorienting and overwhelming feelings of the heroine, not effectively represented with comma-ed  list that end up reading and looking overly formal and organized.  Berman writes, “Prose often aims explicitly to recapture the orality of the vernacular… the effacement of vernaculars is thus a very serious injury to the textuality of prose works” (Berman 294).  With this and the orality and rhythm of the original in mind, I tried to maintain word order and phrasing as long as it was still readable in English.

Conclusion

In Mist, Dayzi al-Amir questions the possibility of the core idea of her story to be translated, [6]  recalling the impossibility of translation explained in Derrida’s Des Tours De Babel. The human condition and the plurality of languages and experiences makes it at once imperative and impossible to translate language.  That is the case with a story about ghurba.  In the process of translating this story, though, it became clear to me that translation is an imperfect, intimate, creative act.  Though the original text is not mine, while rewriting this story in English, the author’s feelings and experience combined with mine and surged through me as I worked.  I knew that I was writing Dayzi al-Amir’s short story, but I was writing my story too–a hybrid story informed by my Arab-American experience, al-Amir’s words, and my ability to render the story in English.  With the combined power of the author’s metaphors and our writing project in mind, I hope the story can enter another lingua-cultural world and find a new life.

Mist, by Dayzi al-Amir (From The Distant Land You Love, 1964)

She wrapped the woolen scarf tightly around her head to defend against the air and walked quickly, eager to reach her friend’s house and go inside her room.

The sun had disappeared hours earlier, for the sun, if it emerged, would disappear quickly in this strange country, well before the hour approached six in the evening.

She felt the air pinch her face, and drew the headscarf over her forehead and to her cheeks, covering most of her face with it. The harsh cold was unrelenting as a blanket of mist began to thicken. She started to feel lonely. She wished she could arrive quickly so she could forget the cold, gloom and loneliness.

The street was crowded with pedestrians. They are used to the cold and early nightfall, she told herself, and she… she would get used to it. She must forget or make herself forget the cold, the gloom, and the loneliness. She would have to stay here in this country for years before she could return to the sun and to the warmth,  to family and serenity.

Yes…  sun and warmth and family… but had she been as satisfied as she imagined? If that were the case, she would not have run away to where she had to endure the cold , the gloom, and loneliness. She had come in search of serenity, but had she found it?

If one was able to travel and leave everything behind her… if it were possible for her to leave her own self behind, why bother bringing it along with her when she went away? What was purpose of running away if what scared her and saddened her came with her?

A gust of wind blew her headscarf out of place and she lifted her head in order to re-tighten it when she saw that the blanket of mist had thickened more, and she felt increasingly lonely. She could hear the coughs of passers-by… then the heavy mist would return and with it the news of its victims, filling the columns of the front pages of the newspapers.

The previous week, the victims of snow were the heroes of the hour, before that, of the ice and before that, the rain. Just like that, every climate had its victim… and her country…  the country of sun and warmth, did she not have her victims? There the people lived with their families in their houses, warmed by the sun and tenderness, and they died during the day sometimes, victims to sun, the victims to tenderness, and victims to family.

The cold froze the tips of her fingers and toes. She dug her hands in her coat pockets in search of warmth and wished that she could find a warm place to bury her feet into when she heard a voice, speaking in a feeble English voice, “Would you like to watch a film?”

She was not sure how the word “No” exited her mouth… She said it with all the anger, pride, haughtiness and harshness the word could bear. She felt a wave of anger slap her in the face as she said it and she kept on walking without turning her face back to see the asker. The voice returned asking “Why not?” She turned her face to see a small dark man smiling at her with stupid propitiation. She did not bother with a response this time, but walked quickly, indeed, ran, as anger took hold of her completely. Who was this idiot who thought an invitation from any man crossing the street would be received agreeably by her? How could he think that she would accept his offer? She felt her dignity and pride push her to go back and search for him in the gloom, mist and cold… She would return to make him understand who she was and which house she came from and whom in her country could only dream of a response from her after their greeting her. She wished she could see him then and hear his invitation so she could give him a lecture about her country and the girls there and their virtuous upbringing and their place in society. Did that moron think that she would run to him in thanks and welcome his invitation without hesitation? If only he’d come back and make his proposition a second time, for the word “No” with all the pride, anger and contempt she loaded it with was not enough.

Was it her looks that suggested she was one of those cheap girls who would accept any offer from any man crossing the street?

She remembered that most of her face was covered, and what seemed strange then was that he had not been inspired uncouthly by her looks, but rather he had tried to invite any girl so she would alleviate his loneliness. Her rage intensified. So she was the same as the rest of the girls and no longer had any of the special significance that she enjoyed in her country!! He who said al-ghurba tuḍayi’ al-aṣl[7] was right. al-ghurba tuḍayi’ al-aṣl. If she attempted to translate this saying to the people of this and, what would they understand from it? And if she tried to explain it to the stranger who called on her? The stranger!! The stranger! He was also a stranger… a stranger like her… and he had lost his origins when he became a stranger here.

She recalled the image of the dark, thin man with his broken voice.  He had been thin, scrawny, and pitiful, in his voice was a tone of painful begging, especially when he came back to ask, “Why not?”.

Was he intending to devalue her when he invited her or was he just another victim of the victims of loneliness? He might have thought for a long time before offering his invitation, and many girls might have passed by him that he might have tried asking, but his courage had failed him. It was, perhaps, her fate that courage had come to him just when she  had come by. Should she be this angry at him? Or had the word “No,” which she pronounced in such a harsh tone, sufficed?

She imagined him in front of her putting his hand out asking for aid. If he had asked for money, would she had offered him her aid with all of her heart?

He had needed companionship then, so he had asked her friendship. Perhaps he had not spoken to anyone in days… He might have come from a clean house and a proper family like her own, but was a man who felt completely alone, just as she felt. She had left her warm room and hurried through this cold and mist and gloom, eager to reach her friend, wanting to eliminate, by talking to her, the fear of loneliness.

And he, was he not human of flesh and blood?

He might have been spoiled with luxury in his home. She remembered her brother when he would travel, how her mother would panic about him whenever she remembered he was far away from the family, the homeland and loved ones. Her mother would send letters to her brother wrought with home and the East and insisting that he mix with people and that he show them what she sent him so they would lighten some of his lonely feelings. Her mother would send letters of thanks to all of the people who would invite her son to visit them. She would say to her and her sisters, “You girls don’t know the meaning of being welcomed into a warm home full of people when you are a stranger.”

She now knew the meaning of solitude, and the meaning of loneliness, alienation and distance. Would it have hurt her to have rejected strange, dark, pitiful man’s invitation without so much severity in her voice? What if she followed the word ‘No’ with the word ‘thanks’ without it bearing the meaning of gratitude, like the people here used it? Or when they used it as a polite insult?

She imagined him in his house among his family and his mother enveloping him with all her tenderness and care, fearing that young women had kept him from her.

Perhaps he had been snobbish and stuck up in his country but the experience of alienation had humiliated him and loneliness brought him down from his pride so that he came to implore the passers-by begging to talk! And she… she didn’t feel any of that. All she felt was insult… insulted that this stuttering insolent stranger had dared to offer his invitation.

He was unlucky that day. There were tens of young women who would welcome any invitation from any man crossing the street. If he had offered to one of them he might have found some attention now, or found himself  arm in arm with someone and warm, or in a house. She lifted her head in search of him among the passers-by but saw no one and heard only sounds. The mist was pressing down heavily, and she discerned from among the sounds the voices of women and men. Those men had been able to find some female company and the ladies too had found some guys to be with. And the strange, scrawny dark man with the pitiful voice, had he found a lady to befriend? She wished she could see him with a girl so that she could feel relief and at ease about him.

Men walking alone passed by her, women also walked by individually. Solitude was the sickness of this country. There were many people who were alone besides the strange dark man with the pitiful voice.

Thinking of the great number people who were alone lightened her feeling of guilt.

The mist expanded, its control penetrating the air. She tried to discern some of the features of the road when she realized she was lost and didn’t know how to reach her friend’s house. She stopped, confused, gazing through the mist but she didn’t see anyone. She strained her hearing, but didn’t hear a sound. The road was empty and she would not be able to find anyone to guide her easily. She didn’t know where she was, and she was unable even to return to her house. Her heart started to beating strongly. She felt like she was suffocating and she wished she could hear the sound of a cough or feet or the voice of an invitation from a man crossing the street. Every time she went to visit her friend it was as if her feet lead her there without needing to think about the branching roads. So how had she gotten lost that night? What had made her lose her self?

Was it the mist? It was the mist and something else. The sky had taken revenge on behalf of the thin dark man with the pitiful voice and had left her wandering lost, unable to find a way out of the mist. She lifted her head up to the sky to engage her in prayer, and asked her to send someone she could ask about the way, and if she would, she concluded her prayer, she swore to god that she wouldn’t talk to a lonely stranger in a harsh tone ever again.

The thick mist barred the delivery of her prayer to the sky. She stood and waited… Her wait lengthened and she considered going backwards, thinking perhaps she would find a landmark that would lead her to her room, but she didn’t know which direction to head. She imagined that she would continue wandering until morning, then she decided she’d surrender to fate, perhaps her surrender would please him. She stopped for a unknown length of time before she heard the sound of feet. She didn’t allow herself to feel happy, afraid her hearing was deceiving  her, but the reassuring sound became clearer. Yes, it was the sound of feet; she pulled back the woolen scarf from her head to indulge her ears fully in the pleasure of sound of human movement, and didn’t think of anything but the approaching person. It was enough that she had found a human to speak to, and who she could ask to guide her to the way. When the person came closer she felt happiness and fear at once– she made out the form of a person, tall stature with wide shoulders and she hoped it were a police officer…  but the man drawing near was not a police officer. He passed by her without stopping or speaking or looking at her. She looked at him getting farther and farther away from her and fear knotted her tongue. She was scarcely able to speak up and pronounce a call out to him. He returned, stopped in front of her, and offered his help to her. She asked him about her street and he told her the number of meters she would have to walk before she had to turn right then the number of turns she had to pass before she would need to turn left and concluded his words with a comment about the weather, “A heavy mist, isn’t it?”

She was still muttering after saying, “Yes, it is,” when she heard him wishing her good night.

She replied to him, “Yes. It is a heavy mist.”

 

 

Bibliography

al-Amir, Daisy. The Waiting List: An Iraqi Woman’s Tales of Alienation. Translated by Barbara Parmenter. Austin: University of Texas, 1994.

Al-Amir, Dayzi. The Distant Country That You Love. Beirut: Dar al ‘ouda, 1964.

Berman, Antoine. “Translation and the Trials of the Foreign.” translated by Lawrence Venuti, 284-296. 1985.

Chamberlain, Lori. “Gender and the Metaphorics of Translation.” 314-329. 1988.

Cooke, Miriam. War’s Other Voices: Women Writers on the Lebanese Civil War. Syracuse University Press, 1996.

Ghazoul, Ferial. “Iraq.” In Arab Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide, edited by Radwa Ashour, Ferial Ghazoul and Reda-Mekdashi Hasna, translated by Mandy McClure. Cairo, 2008.

Simon, Sherry. Gender in Translation. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty. “The Politics of Translation.” 1992.

Steiner, George. “The Hermeneutic Motion.” 187-191. 1975.

[1] From the cover page of the English translation of Dayzi al-Amir’s “ala la’ihat al-intizar” by Barbara Parmenter, published in 1994

[2] From Arab Women Writers: A Critical Reference Guide 1873-1999

[3] Author’s Preface in The Waiting List translation, p. x

[4] Ibid.

[5] “… What was purpose of running away if what scares her and saddens her came with her?” was originally written in the masculine form. See paragraph six of translation below.

[6] “If she attempted to translate this saying to the people of this and, what would they understand from it?” ( paragraph 12 of Mist)

[7] الغربة تضيع الأصل No English word can capture the full meaning and implications of the word ghurba, a major theme in Arabic writing and mode of modern Arab existence. Ghurba is a figurative place, a feeling, an aching, the state of being outside of the homeland. The above idiom also utilizes transitive Arabic verb, tudee’, which cannot be rendered with the intransitive “to lose” of English. Attempted translations include: Alienation makes you lose your origins. Alienation means the loss of origin. Alienation erases origins. Alienation/Homelessness removes roots.

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