The 37th edition of Sharjah International Book Fair, organised by Sharjah Book Authority, curated a workshop titled, “Building Bridges through Translation.” Among the panellists were: Tomoka Shibasaki, award-winning author; Ginny Takemori, translator; Ahmed Abdullatif, novelist, translator, journalist, and researcher; and Naoko Kishida, Director of UAE-Japan Cultural Center.
Naoko Kishida translated the book written by, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, which is titled: Reflections on Happiness & Positivity. She also translated another book which involved pictorial representation of Palestinians.
Remarking on translation works bridging gaps, Tomoko shared a short snippet of her trip to Tibet. She said: “I recently went to Tibet where they were deeply moved by the concept of ‘Magic Realism.’ Literary works from Latin America were translated from which they understood the concept. They said that they learnt how to express their culture better through understanding the literary works of Latin America.”
Ginny Takemori shared her experience of working as a translator, “It’s important to read literary work of other cultures as you need to enter the world that’s not your own to build your mind, otherwise you become quite narrow-minded. When I translate books from Japanese to English, I must enter the author’s fictional world. I need to understand the genre, conventions, dialogues and much more. For instance, in a book where in Japanese they stated about the sounds in the convenience store, in translated works, people wouldn’t understand that unless they live in Japan.”
She added: “The convenience stores in Japan is a microcosm. You can buy ties, grocery, fresh food, cooked food, send packages to any parts of Japan, buy concert tickets, pay school fees, and much more. It is truly convenient. So, in my translated version, I had to elaborate and explain the sounds in the store from the tinkling of the door chime, voices of TV celebrities advertising new products, calls of store workers, beeps of barcode scanner, rustle of customers, and much more.”
Lastly, Ahmed Abdullatif remarked: “During colonial and postcolonial period in the Arab region, several Arabs migrated to Latin American countries. When works of ‘Magic Realism’ got translated into Arabic, people related to it. If you look closely into the genre, it emerged from a space where there were lots of Arab communities. The reason Arabs connect to the genre so well isn’t because they were learning about Latin American concepts, but they were learning about their own identity. Translated works don’t only bridge gaps, but forms identities as well. As Arabs across all spaces are trying to find their identity, such works build on their own understanding of self.”
By the end of the session, the speakers agreed that lots of nuances gets lost in translation, but the benefits far outweigh the missing pieces.