[lg policy] Bilingual collection of poems and prose joins young Arabic, Hebrew writers
haroldfs at gmail.com
Mon Feb 2 15:58:41 UTC 2015
Bilingual collection of poems and prose joins young Arabic, Hebrew writers
Jerusalem — A first-of-its-kind bilingual anthology of Hebrew and Arabic
prose and poetry has recently been released in Israel
<http://www.csmonitor.com/csmlists/topic/Israel>, offering an example of
the potential for collaboration despite heightened tensions between Arabs
Unlike previous translations between the languages, it is published by one
of Israel's leading publishers and focuses on daily life and love as much
as on politics.
Called "Two," the collection is published by Keter Publishing House, and
aims to launch a dialogue between young, contemporary writers in both
languages. The ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unavoidably present
in the anthology, but it is not the dominant theme. The best poems and
stories approach political questions obliquely, framing them in unexpected
Recommended: How much do you know about Israel? Take the quiz
"Love is no less political than politics," says Rajaa Natour, a poet who
has contributed two love poems to the volume. As a Palestinian with Israeli
citizenship, she is part of the country's 20 percent Arab minority whose
experiences are often unfamiliar to the Jewish majority.
Test your knowledge <http://www.csmonitor.com/csmlists/quizzes> How much
do you know about Israel? Take the quiz
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"Through the translation, my voice as a Palestinian woman will reach Jewish
women who are not in, and do not know, my day-to-day life and reveal my
emotional world. If I wasn't translated to Hebrew, I would never reach
The project, begun in 2008, originally included Palestinians from the West
Bank and Gaza Strip <http://www.csmonitor.com/csmlists/topic/Gaza+Strip> as
well. But failed peace initiatives and three Israel-Gaza conflicts
eventually led all of them to withdraw. However, the inclusion of
Palestinians living within Israel still marks a significant accomplishment,
especially given the heightened tensions during last summer's Gaza war.
While Arabic literature has been translated into Hebrew before, and vice
versa, those translations have focused on established authors. "Two" aims
to bring together a younger generation of poets and fiction writers who are
unfamiliar to readers of the other language. The 70+ poems and short
stories included in the collection all appear twice, in the original and in
Hebrew or Arabic translation.
Hebrew and Arabic share common linguistic roots and a long history of
literary interaction, but in Israel today Hebrew and Arabic readers are
largely unfamiliar with each other's language and literature.
"The community of writers in Hebrew and writers in Arabic live in parallel
and publish in parallel, and they hardly meet," says Almog Behar, an
Israeli novelist and poet and one of the book's editors, along with Tamer
Massalha and Tamar Weiss-Gabbay.
Given the difficult state of Israeli-Palestinian relations currently, Dr.
Behar claims for the anthology a modest, if hopeful goal.
"We don't have any utopian idea that we're creating a shared literary
community," he said. Rather, the collection can be "a kind of introduction
that can generate further influences and connections."
Harold F. Schiffman
Professor Emeritus of
Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305
Phone: (215) 898-7475
Fax: (215) 573-2138
Email: haroldfs at gmail.com
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