Translating a literary piece from one language to another is often cumbersome for a myriad of factors that matter in the process. The most important being keeping the charm of the scenario, the power of dialogues and the flow of events notwithstanding the translator’s ideas being inserted, obstructing the smooth sailing of the whole story.
It is all about respecting the author’s feelings while writing the original piece and doing justice to it and thus a translator, many times, is in a dilemma of fetching the true meaning, the original essence of the secondary work and making it more appealing to the readers.
Oman’s celebrated author Jokha al Harthi’s work of ‘Celestial Bodies’ is currently in a voyage of translations and the latest being Italian whose work was carried out by Giacomo Longhi, an Italian translator who is known to reword from Persian and Arabic to Italian for the passion for literature.
Jokha is an Omani writer and academic and was educated in Oman and the United Kingdom. She obtained her PhD in classical Arabic literature from Edinburgh University and is currently an associate professor in the Arabic department at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU). Her work of ‘Celestial Bodies’ has won the Man Booker International Prize in 2019.
Jokha al Harthi is the first female Omani writer to have won the Man Booker World Prize and the one who marked a great milestone for Arabic literature in general and Omani literature in particular. Her original work in Arabic was translated by Marilyn Booth, a professor from the United States.
The story of Celestial Bodies depicts the life of three sisters in the village of Al Awafi in Oman. While the eldest one Mayya marries after a heartbreak, Asma, her younger sister, marries from a sense of duty and Khawla, the youngest one who has emigrated to Canada chooses to refuse all offers and awaits a reunion with the man she loved.
It is the story of these three women and their families, their feelings, love and losses, which is beautifully narrated in the backdrop of the scenic beauty of one of Oman’s villages.
Jokha is the first Omani author to be published in Italian and the event which is part of the Italian Cultural Week events was celebrated by Bait Al Zubair and the Italian Embassy. Ahmed al Maini conducted the talk with several topics, including the challenges of translation into Italian, the Italian audience’s reception of the novel, the presence of Arabic literature in Italy, the similarities and differences that affected the novel through its various translations, and the author’s relationship with the translators of her books.
The session was followed by a signing ceremony in Arabic and Italian versions of the novel and the session.
“I’m happy to launch the book that made Oman proud in Italian, the latest in many languages and the book can be read in many more languages soon as talks are on for translating it in other languages too”, said Jokha during the book-signing ceremony.