you should respond to two posts written by your peers. (Please note that you will only be able to see other posts after you submit your own.) Your responses should each be at least 150 words and should follow the guidelines for productive classroom dialogue and “netiquette” that are outlined in our syllabus. Some suggested strategies you may use in your response include providing a personal reaction, bringing up a point of agreement or disagreement, asking a clarifying question, or thinking of an additional example that further proves or complicates what your peer has said. The purpose of this step is to allow our forums to be an interactive space where we talk to each other rather than at each other and are able to meet our learning outcome of building knowledge collaboratively.
Arab women writers face Western condescension based on prejudice of their societal background. There was a line about how they are “praised for ‘daring’ to put pen to paper” which is ridiculous for a variety of reasons beyond the underlying condescension. The first article claims that the Western world has this predisposition that women are so heavily oppressed in North Africa and the Middle East that any attempt at individualism by women is met with swift and violent “justice” because the Arab men are cruel and controlling (more or less, I’m paraphrasing of course). Again, that’s ridiculous. However, this conception makes any kind of writing that coincides with these ideals “acclaimed” and “well-received”, whereas other writings that state opposing or alternative ideas are usually just ignored. Best-sellers of these books are the ones that align with preconception which in turn dictates which writings and literature pieces get translated. The critical idea of literature is that unless it is akin to a dictionary or thesaurus, it can be altered to fit the readers view of what should be said (let alone the truth). That seemed to be what was going on with the Publishing in the West reading.
The second reading continues this line of thinking by stating that the Western world thinks “Arab-women are either victims, pawns, or escapees” especially in the context of literature created by these women. Page 153 of the second reading (labeled as page 8 of the in-browser tab) claims that both the father and the brother underwent changes to appease the reception process. On page 154 it claims that anything positive towards Sha’rawi’s father was tentatively removed under the premise of “repetition or over-elaboration”. It claims that also the grandfather’s charming stories were omitted. Again, we return to the idea of the first reading that says literature can be altered to satisfy the reader (sales are more important than accuracy or facts. Harry Potter sells, Webster Dictionaries do not.).
I didn’t get so much of a new idea as I obtained an explanation. Both of these articles depict censorship of true translated works. The first article states that the best-selling translations are ones that adhere to the “victim, escapee, or pawn” clause of Western expectation and reception especially in the context of Orientalism. The second reading also states that the translations are forcibly adapted to fit the “victim, escapee, or pawn” clause because Western readers will not accept that which contrasts with their preconceptions. In Psychology, this is known as an aspect of Confirmation Bias (https://www.britannica.com/science/confirmation-bias). Anything that fits what someone “knows” is obviously true and understandable and explainable, anything that does not fit with what they “know” is clearly untrue, ridiculous, and impossible. Something that came to mind reading these two selections is that this is less of a causality case and more of a cycle case. Translations HAVE to adhere to the pre-mentioned clause, or they are rejected (or just don’t sell, or aren’t even translated into writings for English). Once they do, they are sold which solidifies this clause further meaning that translations have to shift their stories even closer to this clause and further from the truth (obviously, conditions apply depending on the specific story and so forth).
According to the articles, Arab women writers face great challenges within their field of work. In the article, Publishing in the West: Problems and Prospects for Arab Women Writers, it says that their achievement can be somewhat overlooked because Western readers attribute their success to the female writer’s play on Western prejudices within their writing. Arab women are often seen as “Victims to be rescued from male violence.” And therefore, have been made as symbols of “a region and religion that were at once exotic, violent, and inferior.” Because of this long history of preconceived notions in the West pertaining to Arab women, these female writers still carry the weight of these assumptions, which is shown in the way that their books are marketed and promoted in the West. These books, when translated, are manipulated and changed in order to fall in line with Western reader’s expectations. The content of the book is not the only thing that is tampered with during translation, but the title, and cover are both typically changed as well to appeal to the Western audience. For example, the cover of Fadia Faqir’s, Nisanit, was shown as a women dressed from head to toe in black, which had no correlation to the book’s content.
Another strong example of this is shown in Egyptian feminist writer, Huda Sh’rawi’s writings, My Memoirs. The title was changed to Harem Years. Because of many changes that were made to the actual content of the book as well, Kahf states that there is distortion that needs to be understood and recognized by those who use the text as a teaching tool, and those who are reading it. He shares that the translation is targeted at a “specific reception environment”, being the “first world” market of which is shaped by a “horizon of expectations” in terms of writing done by and about Muslim/ Arab women. Because of this disconnect, there is somewhat of a restriction of meaning within the text. Changing the story of My Memoirs around by exaggerating certain things and minimizing others, paints the Arab female’s life as being a victim and escapee. This portrayal appeals to the reception of first world readers because it plays into, and confirms their ideas and notions about women from the Arab world.
The fact that Arab women’s texts are distorted and basically recreated during translation is something that I never really thought about before. I think it’s crazy that translators can just change somebody’s piece of writing in such a way that it doesn’t even hold true to the original story. I understand the vision of appealing to a more first world or Western audience when translating a novel, but why does the story have to be switched around to make the female characters appear as victims of abuse an oppression? If the book sells well in it’s own region, I don’t see why the story and character portrayal has to be flipped around to appeal to readers in other regions. A good story is a good story, regardless of language.