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Posted on March 17th, 2013, by

Analyzing Islamic civilization as the base of its poetry appearance we can state that it is the least open to outside influences, which are due to primarily features of religion, covering all aspects of life, including poetry, economics and politics. The Muslim way of life is not only traditional but it is also valuable. To the Islamic mentality outside the Muslim world there is nothing decent for attention and imitation and such position also greatly impacts on the way of Arabic poetry translation because two worlds with different values and styles of life try to understand each other with the help of translation.

Discussing difficulties and loss of translating Nabati poetry it is necessary to dwell on H. A. R. Gibb’s (1968) words, who stated in his discussion of specificity of translating different kinds of classical Arabic poetry that “the general similarity in structure and content of the pre-Islamic odes may give, especially when they are read in translation, an impression of monotony, almost of bareness, mirroring with a certain rude force the uniformity of desert life, its concreteness, realism, absence of shading and of introspection” (p. 20). Gibb (1968) also added that “the poet is held almost wholly to specific themes, and his aim is to embellish those themes with all the art at his command, to surpass his predecessors and rivals in beauty, expressiveness, terseness of phrase, in fidelity of description and grasp of reality, then such poetry can never be satisfactorily translated into any other language, just because the thing said varies so little and the whole art lies in the untranslatable manner of saying it” (p. 21). It is possible to suppose that Gibb described main differences between thoughts and images in translation and in addition to these we should remember that the features of the Arabic language bring us to another, practically insoluble imperfect translations. The fact is that the Arabic language uses the means of influence that is almost completely absent in others languages and English is among them, too.

Oriental person often uses more peculiar subject-figurative style of thinking. The truth for him is not something that is the subject to the mind and the will of man, but it is an objective reality in itself. Therefore, the truth does not depend on the mind, or on the will of a man. Western man, vice versa, needs the truths that will serve him, while oriental Arabic people seek for truth which they can serve for their whole life. So, the learning process in the context of Arabic world and its poetry is not an analysis of main properties of the object, but it is its spiritual insight at the inaccessible level of rational inquiry. The European world is quite different to the Arabic world, because both of them are different in their historical context of development: the European world represents the relative unity in respect of civilization, while the Arabic world is separate in this sense.

Is it possible to quite accurately and fully convey the same thought in the English language that is expressed by means of the Arabic language? Two opposite points of view traditionally exist in the scientific community. The first point of view presents untranslatable theory, because according to this theory, a complete translation from one language to another is generally impossible due to significant differences of expression of different languages; translation is only a weak and imperfect reflection of the original, giving it a very remote idea. The second one, more popular among researchers which formed the basis of many professional translators, is that any development of national languages is an ample means of communication for the full translation of thoughts, expressed in another language. This is especially true in the English language – one of the most developed and richest languages in the world. The practice of interpreters proves that any product can be fully (properly) translated into English and retain all stylistic and other features specific to the author. Adding to the above stated two main positions the equivalence theory it is important to say that it allows to establish the functional equivalence between the original structure and the structure of translation, to recreate the unity of form and content of translation, which is understood as an artistic whole, to convey the reader the subtle nuances of the creative thoughts of the author, the created thoughts and images which have already found their extremely precise expression in language script. Content can not exist until it finds the required form. And, as the result, the form of a poem is a complex of interrelated and interactive elements such as rhythm, melody, architectonic, stylistic, semantic, imaginative, emotional content of words and their combinations.

Thinking about the way how to make images in one language translatable into images in another language it is necessary to remember that, translating foreign-language poetry, the translator should also take into account all the elements in all their complex and lively communication, and the main task is to find in terms of their native language the same complex and vital connection, which would reflect the original as accurately as possible, which would have the order of the same emotional effect. Thus, the interpreter should ”˜be reincarnated’ to the author, taking his style and language, intonation and rhythm, while maintaining fidelity to the language, and something of his poetic personality. It should be remembered that the translation of outstanding literary work should be the same masterpiece in other language that it was in its native one.

Thus, taking everything into consideration it is possible to say that it is impossible translate Arabic Nabati poems into English using only Arabic notions, because literary translation, both poetic and prosaic is an art; moreover, art is the fruit of creativity that is not compatible with literalism. It is obvious that there are some gains and losses of translating Arabic Nabati poems into English and many of them depend on translation skills and the difficulty of the original text, but people need to know masterpieces of classical Arabic poetry and only those translators can expect to succeed, who start working with the sense that the language will win any difficulties that are barriers for the language there.

To sum up, a merger with the author is an ideal state for the interpreter, but the merger requires searching, imagination, resourcefulness, empathy, visual and hearing acuity. Translation of Arabic poetry into English allows people to understand the identity of other nation and culture, to find something interesting for the own development and be involved in all the changes that have their place in society.

References
Allen, R. (2000). An Introduction to Arabic Literature. Cambridge University Press.
Bailey, C. (1991). Bedouin poetry from Sinai and the Negev: mirror of a culture. Oxford University Press.
Gibb, H. A. R. (1968). Arabic Literature. London: Oxford University Press.
Holes, C., Salman, S. and Athera, A. (2011). Nabati Poetry of the United Arab Emirates. The: Selected Poems, Annotated and Translated into English. Ithaca Press.
Kinberg, L., Versteegh, K. and Kinberg, N. (2001). Studies in the Linguistic Structure of Classical Arabic. Brill.
Kurpershoek, M. (1999). Bedouin Poets of the Dawasir Tribe: Between Nomadism and Settlement in Southern Najd. Vol. 3. Brill.
Smith, R., Smart, R. and Pridham, B. (1997). New Arabian Studies. Vol. 4. University of Exeter Press.
Sowayan, S. A. (1985). Nabati poetry: the oral poetry of Arabia. University of California Press.
Sowayan, S. A. (1992). The Arabian oral historical narrative: an ethnographic and linguistic analysis. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag.
Zwettler, M. (1978). The oral tradition of classical Arabic poetry: its character and implications. Ohio State University Press.

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