Translated from the Arabic by Waïl S. Hassan
"One of the most original and imaginative Arab literary critics working today. A keen close-reader, he is driven by a sense of playfulness and irony, and it untrammeled by Western literary theory today...essential"
"Its availability to Anglophone scholars of Arabic literature, as well as students of comparative literature and literary theory, [is] an invaluable service to the literary profession."
—Terry DeYoung, author of Placing the Poet: Badr Shakir al-Sayyab and Postcolonial Iraq
It has been said that the difference between a language and a dialect is that a language is a dialect with an army. Both the act of translation and bilingualism are steeped in a tension between surrender and conquest, yielding conscious and unconscious effects on language. First published in Arabic in 2002, Abdelfattah Kilito’s Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language explores the tension between dynamics of literary influence and canon formation within the Arabic literary tradition. As one of the Arab world’s most original and provocative literary critics, Kilito challenges the reader to reexamine contemporary notions of translation, bilingualism, postcoloniality, and the discipline of comparative literature. Waïl S. Hassan’s superb translation makes Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language available to an English-speaking audience for the first time, capturing the charm and elegance of the original in a chaste and seemingly effortless style.
At the center of Kilito’s work is his insistence on the ethics of translation. He explores the effects of translation on the genres of poetry, narrative prose, and philosophy. Kilito highlights the problem of cultural translation as an interpretive process and as an essential element of comparative literary studies. In close readings of al-Jahiz, Ibn Rushd, al-Saffar, and al-Shidyaq, among others, he traces the shifts in attitude toward language and translation from the centuries of Arab cultural ascendancy to the contemporary period, interrogating along the way how the dynamics of power mediate literary encounters across cultural, linguistic, and political lines.
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Abdelfattah Kilito, professor in the Department of French at Muhammad V University in Rabat, Morocco, has published extensively on Arabic literature. His book The Author and His Doubles was also published by Syracuse University Press.
Waïl S. Hassan is associate professor of comparative literature at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Tayeb Salih: Ideology and the Craft of Fiction, also published by Syracuse University Press.
5 1/2 x 8 1/2, 144 pages, notes, bibliography