The Sudanese Writers’ Union (SWU) hosted on Tuesday the German Translator Günther Orth in an open literary forum.
Günter Orth who is contributing substantially with other few German translators to introducing Arabic literature in Goethe’s language, expressed his pleasure to be in Sudan, adding that he had come not to lecture people about the techniques of translation but to acquire appropriate knowledge about a country distinguished for its cultural variety.
“The methodology adopted by me in translating literary works depends on my artistic taste,” said Orth.
He explained that despite the stipulations imposed by publishing houses, the translator should develop a sort of skill working as a compass enabling him to distinguish between literary works haunting for temporal agitation and works that meet aesthetic conditions necessary for survival of any artistic contribution.
A participant in the forum asked Orth how he manages to overcome difficulties of finding suitable synonyms in German for phrases taken directly from Arabic spoken dialects and he responded that he always he seeks advises from native citizens from the country to which the translated text affiliates and then conducts a brief research to find similar equivalent in German.
Orth, further stated that he came bearing in mind an image of Sudan as a country suffering from sharp split of cultural identity, adding that lots of westerners wonder if Sudan is an African country or an Arab one.
Dr. Aisha Musa, one of the most prominent academicians in Sudan said she believed that Sudanese intellectual as well as citizens don not disturb themselves with the question of identity since they are satisfied with their affiliation to a country named Sudan regardless of its belonging to African or Arabic cultural and ethnical identity.
Although Musa’s response seems to be logic and adopted by considerable sector of Sudanese intellectual, it could not cancel out the bitter fact that the conflict upon identity has led Sudan to lose its “southern half”. The enigma of ethnical and cultural identity is still playing the major role in flaring disputes in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains and the Blue Nile state. Moreover, the newly born state of South Sudan overwhelmed, only less than two years following to the announcement of independence, by fierce war where conflicting ethnicities race not only to seize power and wealth but also to impose a sole cultural identity that might not suit others.
Talking about his new experience in translating a Sudanese novel into German, Orth asked audience to brief him on the development of Sudanese literature.
Different participants pointed out that novels written by writers affiliating to younger generations demonstrate the literary scene in the country with substantial contributions from female writers. A journalist told Orth that women contributed to development side by side with men, pointing out that one of the earliest Sudanese novels published during the 1950s was written by a female writer called Malkat al Dar Ahmad. The journalist said that al Dar’s “The Infinite Vacuum” is one of few “mature artistic works” published at a time when Arab novels could be calculated on fingers.
Orth who translated novels, short stories and poetry works from Syria, Yemen, Egypt and Palestine expressed his pleasure to translate Abdul Aziz Barka Sakin’s “Christ of Darfur” to German, adding that the translation will introduce the new Sudanese writings to German readers as well as open the door for additional translations.
It is worth mentioning that Tayeb Salih’s “Season of Migration to the North” is the only Sudanese novel published in a German translation.
Participants in the forum emphasized that translation is one of the most effective approaches boosting mutual understanding among nations as well as providing genuine representation for the “multi-dimension human experience”.
* a writer and journalist from Sudan