Thursday

Anatomy of a Translation: Al-Ramid and Al-Assad

Yesterday I published a translation of this short piece from Hespress, a Moroccan Arabic-language Internet newspaper.



Here is the complete source text:

بن الصديق: كلام الرميد عن أحداث تازة يُشبه تصريحات بشار الأسد

شبّه الحقوقي أحمد بن الصديق حديث وزير العدل والحريات مصطفى الرميد عن استغلال بعض الجهات لأحداث تازة، بتصريحات الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد حول العصابات الإرهابية التي يحركها الخارج [في إطار نظرية المؤامرة].

وكتب بن الصديق على حائطه الفايسبوكي أن"الوزير لم يذكر اسم هذه الجهات لكي يعرفها المواطنون فهل يعرفها هو ؟ لماذا يتستر عنها إن كان يعرفها ؟ ألا يشبه هذا الكلام تصريحات بشار الأسد حول العصابات الإرهابية التي يحركها الخارج [في إطار نظرية المؤامرة ؟.]

ووفقا لما نقلته بعض وسائل الإعلام عن الرميد فقد قال في لقاء جمعه بالصحفيين ليلة الاثنين أن "هناك استغلالا سياسيا لأحداث تازة، وهناك جهات [تريد ان تجعل من تازة بؤرة توتر] لانطلاق الثورة في المغرب".

وأضاف الرميد قائلا:" نعم كانت هناك مشاكل اجتماعية، لكن، أن يصل الأمر إلى درجة استعمال [قنابل المولوتوف]، فهذا غير مقبول…لكن أن تصل حد الاستغلال السياسي وادعاء أشياء باطلة، فهذا غير مقبول، وغير صحيح، التلفيق غير مقبول والكذب غير معقول كذلك..ولا ينبغي التحايل على الأحداث..فما حدث في تازة اجتماعي لكن هناك من يريد [الركوب عليه]".


Overall, this translation was very straightforward. Unlike Classical Arabic and a lot of Literary Arabic, Media Arabic follows a structure and style that resembles that of Western Media. So here you avoid certain syntactical and sentential issues, such as lack of punctuation and overly long sentences.

Nonetheless, there were some issues that I had to deal with, which I've highlighted with brackets in the source text.

First, you can see at the end of the first two paragraphs the phrase:
في إطار نظرية المؤامرة
Here the preposition في can be translated as "concerning" or "with regard to" and the phrase can be literally translated as "with regard to the realm of conspiracy theory."

I had trouble with this phrase because of it's location within the sentence.

In the first paragraph the main sentence action is Bin Sadiq's comparison of Al-Ramid's statement to those of Bashar Al-Assad's. The purpose of the في phrase is to define the terms of this comparison; what Bin Sadiq says is that Al-Ramid sounds like he's talking about conspiracy theories, which is what Al-Assad has done (and to much ridicule.)

To avoid the stylistic issue of tacking the في clause onto the end of the first paragraph,  I decided to refer to "conspiracy theories" in the main subordinate clause like this:

Lawyer Ahmed bin Al-Sadiq compared the words of Mostafa Al-Ramid concerning certain groups' exploitation of recent events in Taza to Syrian President  Bashar Al-Asad's ["conspiracy theories"] about foreign controlled terrorist groups operating in his country.

Instead of:

Lawyer Ahmed bin Al-Sadiq compared the words of Mostafa Al-Ramid concerning certain groups' exploitation of recent events in Taza to Syrian President  Bashar Al-Asad's statements about foreign controlled terrorist groups [concerning the realm of conspiracy theories].

The next three translation decisions I want to talk about concern specific vocabulary that didn't sound right when translated literally.

Towards the end of Paragraph Three we have Minister Al-Ramid criticizing what he sees as the political exploitation of the recent events in Taza:

وهناك جهات [تريد ان تجعل من تازة بؤرة توتر] لانطلاق الثورة في المغرب

The phrase تريد ان تجعل من تازة بؤرة توتر is straightforward, but I struggled with بؤرة توتر which literally means "focus of tension."

This sounds awkward in English. Clearly it's a standard Arabic metaphor, but I couldn't think of a great English equivalent. I chose "place the events in Taza under a microscrope" because it describes a specific and intense type of scrutiny.

It's clear from the context that Al-Ramid feels that the attention being placed on these events is undue and extreme, so I felt that the "under a microscope" image fit the context of inappropriate attention while capturing some of the imagery conveyed by the Arabic "focus of tension." There's significant lost meaning, but that's how it goes with translation sometimes.

In the next paragraph, قنابل المولوتوف literally means "Molotov bombs" which glosses nicely to "Molotov cocktails."

Lastly, there is الركوب عليه which literally means "to mount or ride on."

I felt that "there are people who want to ride on the events in Taza" both didn't make much sense in English and failed to convey the complete meaning of the phrase.

This is another instance of metaphor. The same root ركب (which means to ride, as in, 'to ride in a car' or 'to ride a horse') is used in the stock phrase اللحاق بركب or "to join the procession of" or "to join the bandwagon" and so it conveys a sense of adopting a cause for insincere reason.

Because Al-Ramid had been explicit about his feeling that people were exploiting the situation for their political gain, and I felt that this phrase expressed such a meaning, I used the stock English phrase "to take advantage of." Again, there is significant loss there, but I think it succeeds in conveying the meaning of the passage.

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In Anatomy of a Translation I discuss the decisions I made to produce my latest translation. As always, comments and discussion are welcome!

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