I gave a very short talk this morning (I hope, at least, my brevity was appreciated!) at the Sharjah International Book Fair’s pre-fair professional program. It was a follow-up to our discussion yesterday about Arabic literature in (and out of) translation, and I focused in large part on children’s books.
The focus of this blog is generally Arabic children’s books in Arabic. But, since I unfortunately write in English, my plea for a translated children’s literature:
And this is true for even the youngest readers. If we want adults who are interested in world literatures, then I believe we need to grow them.
Books for young readers are perhaps the most difficult to translate. In the translation of a really good picture book, not just every word matters, but every sound. When it doesn’t work—as with some of the Dr. Seuss translations into Arabic—it’s awful.
So why should we do the hard work of translating children’s books at all? Why buy your child طريقتي الخاصّة (which I believe will be published by Orion as My Own Private Way or My Own Special Way) or النقطة السوداء (The Black Dot) or even Asterix when you could buy him something in his native setting? Because children who love books are innately interested in other worlds.
And children who love good books from around the world will, we hope, become adults who do the same.