By Naguib Mahfouz
It is a fact that, in the end, I cannot really judge translations of my own work. Apart from not having read them all in the languages I know there are many, in Greek, Japanese and Spanish for instance, that I cannot judge at all.
It is questionable, in any case, whether any translation can ever be wholly faithful to the original. It can be a good or bad approximation, something that becomes most apparent with poetry, which many claim defies translation completely.
Poetry -- and this applies to a lesser extent to all types of literature -- depends on the connotation and evocative power of words. These non- literal values of words are not necessarily identical -- indeed they may differ entirely -- from language to language.
I am, of course, deeply indebted to the labour of translators. They have helped enormously in disseminating my works abroad. But more importantly, I have depended on translations to expand my own exposure to world literature. I have read many works in the original, especially in English. Interestingly enough I read Anatole France in French but Proust in English. Yet were it not for the work of translators I would never have had access to Russian, Italian or Spanish literature.
Based on an interview by Mohamed Salmawy.