Imposters by al-Hariri – Adequate Artistic Translation or Domestication

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Nino Dolidze


The interest towards the foreign, magic, mystical Orient first appeared in the epoch of antiquity. It was strengthened in the period of crusades. Later the process of idealization and exoticization of the Oriental World was facilitated by the widespread tales of “The Thousand and One Night”.

There is a quite long-standing tradition of translating Arabic Literature into the Western languages. The interest of the West to the Orient was reflected in these artificial translations too. But one can observe the process of adaptation and remaking of original Arabic pieces of literature (not only folklore or oral one). It’s natural thing that the remaking of the Arabic texts continued in the colonial period too. Taking into consideration taste and demands of the receivers was more important for European translators than the allegiance to the origins.

The situation was changed in post-orientalist era. Many old translations were neglected and new translations of the classical Arabic pieces appeared. To this new age belongs Imposters – the English translation of the Maqamat by al-Hariri written in the 13th century. The book was issued by the New York University Press in 2020.

Discussing Persian, Hebrew, Latin, French, German, English, Russian translations of Maqamat made before, one can keep an eye on the attitude to this Arabic masterpiece in different cultures and ages. In my presentation I’d analyze the Imposters as translation made by the modern prominent American scholar Michael Cooperson trying to answer the further questions: Is his work exact artistic adequate of the origin? What is the most important to the translator in the 21st century? Has the attitude to the oriental texts in the epoch of globalization changed or not?

Published: Nov 14, 2022

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