Mahmoud Darwish: Found in Translation
By Fazal Baloch
Translation is not a mere art of rendering the contents from one language to the other. Rather it is a way of transforming feelings, expressions, pain, agony, elation yearning and the likes into another language in such a way that the spirit, essence and originality of the content are altogether preserved. Good translation always serves as a bridge between two languages and their social and cultural values. On the flip side, even a mediocre one may strip a piece of writing off its literary charm and aesthetic as has been the case with most translations in various languages.
Over the years, translation has been and will always continue to be the need of literature in all languages. No literature can keep itself abreast with the global literary trends unless there is a vibrant translating body available as individual efforts may not be suffice for this task. Unfortunately, Balochi literature for more than 50 years has been trying to keep itself conscious with the trends of the international literature through the individual efforts. It is a sad reflection that, mainly, it still stays unfamiliar with the works of towering personalities of global literature like Gabriel Garcia Marquiz, Paulo Coehlo, Naguib Mahfouz, Nizar Qabbani, Pabelo Neruda and the list goes on and on.
Nevertheless, the yesteryear witnessed a substantial surge in translations from the international literature. Albert Camus, Franz Kafka and Mahmoud Darwish are amongst the writers rendered in Balochi literature. Anwer Noor, a Muscat based banker by profession brought out a selection of Mahmoud Darwish’s poems in the Balochi language under the title Aps may loga panag inth (Horse, keeping the company of our house). Published by the Balochi Adabi Majlis Oman, this slim volume which runs to 120 pages is the first ever collection of translations from Arabic literature. It contains twenty eight (28) poems selected from various collections of Darwish including the poems like The Identity Card, The lover of Palestine, The Eternity of Cactus, He is calm and So am I and The Passport to name a few here. What I feel mandatory to mention here is the fact that these are firsthand translations attempted from the Arabic; the language these poems are originally composed in. These poems took the translator two years which reflects his painstaking efforts, commitment and love for both Mahmoud Darwish and Balochi literature.
Darwish is a poet of enormous sensibilities. However, the boundless love for his expropriated land, sympathy for the hapless people of this bleeding territory and agony of his uprootedness and dispossession are a few commonplace themes often appear on the landscape of his poetry. And the poems include in this collection mainly reflect the same subject matters.
In the foreword to the book the renowned Balochi fiction writer Dr. Haneef Shareef reveals that he had always been skeptical about the poetic merits of Darwish and even quipped him as a propagandist poet. The reason behind this attitude was the fact that he didn’t have any understanding of Arabic language and the translations he read in Urdu failed to give him the kind of pleasure he now draws while reading Anwer Noor’s translations.
The Mahmoud Darwish we come across in this slim anthology is definitely far from being a mere propagandist. Rather he is a man whose land is occupied, streets of his city are soaked with blood and olive trees are under the siege of a perpetual autumn. The intensity of pain and agony of poet’s soul and melancholy of his tone continuously runs through all the pages of the volume.
Surprisingly, Noor opted for just two stanzas of the famous poem “The Lover of Palestine” a title Darwish is alternatively known as. However, the way he rendered these few lines really touches the heart and one can’t help but wonder that why he didn’t attempt the whole poem. Similarly, he has missed a number of lines of the title poem Aps may loga panag inth which is translated into English by Jaffery Sacks under the title Eternity of Cactus. A state of siege not only ranks amongst the epic poems of Mahmoud Darwish but also enjoys an unparalleled place in the contemporary Arab resistance literature. Yet, Anwer Noor skipped this masterpiece which surprises the readers a bit.
Notwithstanding, Anwer Noor has done a commendable job by introducing Balochi literature to Mahmoud Darwish who was lost in the mist of some ordinary translations.
Published in The Baloch Hal on March 3, 2013