Taking as a case study the first known novel to be originally written in Arabic, Khalīl al-Khūrī’s Alas, I Am Not a Foreigner, this essay addresses the centrality of translation to the Arabic novel as it circulated in transnational Arabic print networks as part of both Arab enlightenment (nahḍa) discourse and material culture. Early original Arabic novels were serialized alongside translations, incorporated translated excerpts into their narratives, or were prefaced by comments that situated them in a literary marketplace dominated by translated fiction. This essay reads one such novel within larger debates surrounding the importation and use of foreign objects. By focusing on how translation enables texts to move, we see how these novels help engender transformations in form, how they create but also destabilize imagined communities, and how they provoke new assessments of literary, cultural, and commercial value. The novel is a special kind of import produced self-consciously through translation that resituates the original form. The novel at large, early Arab novelists show us, is not a form that is translated but one formed in and by translation.
Importing the Novel: The Arabic Novel in and as Translation
rebecca c. johnson is assistant professor of English and the humanities at Northwestern University and is currently completing a book titled “History of the Novel in Translation: Errant Reading and the Circulation of Form in Arabic.”
Rebecca C. Johnson; Importing the Novel: The Arabic Novel in and as Translation. Novel 1 August 2015; 48 (2): 243–260. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00295132-2882665
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