Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bruce Fudge - "More Translators of The Thousand and One Nights"

 Borges (1968) -

Bruce Fudge on the continued legacy of Borges' judgements and predictions about the variety of translations of the Nights and the latest contemporary "Western" translations of the story collection.

" Obviously, much has changed since Borges’ day, not least the status of the Encyclopaedia  Britannica. We no longer want (consciously, anyway) to find Shakespeare or Flaubert in our translations from the Arabic. But in a sense, the twenty-first-century versions are heeding Borges’ critique. They, too, are only conceivable “in the wake of a literature.” The difference is that the new translations must be conceived in the wake of an Arabic literature.

It is true that the Penguin translation has a Spartan quality akin to the German of Littmann, as other reviewers have noted. But this quality is itself a result of a deep engagement with the Arabic text. One is never far from the original with Lyons, and as I have suggested, reading him is perhaps the closest to reading Calcutta II or Būlāq. The Pléiade edition is richer. This is most evident from the notes and critical apparatus that show both the translators’ deep command of the Arabic literary tradition and their evident passion for The Thousand and One Nights as a part of that tradition. None is particularly concerned with their readers’ own backgrounds: the assumption is that the reader, too, seeks authenticity. Perhaps in the next century scholars will look back and marvel at the priority of text over reader, but for the time being, both Penguin and Pléiade fit the current Zeitgeist."

His article - "More Translators of The Thousand and One Nights" from the Journal of the American Oriental Society can be read here: