Founder of the Italian “Arabesque” Amal Boushareb: Passion drives literature and translation, a love story between the translator and two cultures

The Algerian-Italian novelist and translator Amal Bouchareb, the author of the trilogy “In the Beginning Was the Word”, “Sukrat Najma” and “The Constant Darkness”, is considered one of the most prominent Arab immigrant women of the new generation, and an active contributor to the Italian Library and cultural forums and seminars related to the Arab world. And the Palestinian issue in Italy.

Bouchareb founded a semi-annual magazine specialized in literature and arts in the Arab world called “Arabesque”, which is published on paper in Italian. She says that the series opens the doors of beauty between the two shores of the Mediterranean, and sheds light on the areas of tenderness that unite our peoples, selecting the highest levels of creative expression in our two cultures, placing them between the two helms. A diversified publication in the form of a magazine, the first of its kind in Italy, to introduce Arabic literature and arts.

The magazine celebrates Italian artists, writers, and translators who have learned about the beauty of Arab civilization, and carefully transferred it to Italian. In this dialogue, we approach Amal Bouchareb. As an intellectual and translator, she considers translation a love story and sees the world of literature and its environs as a reflection of the essence of the human soul.

Amal Bouchareb in a meeting at the Belgravia Library on Palestinian literature, during which she presented the latest issue of Arabesque magazine (Al-Jazeera)
  • Have you found in writing and storytelling the most appropriate way to win the hearts and minds of Western and Italian readers?

Writing is the language of communication that I love. In the beginning, it was a natural choice to express the human concerns of the group with whom I share the same civilizational and cultural background, and after moving to Italy, it remained my favorite tool for communicating with the other.

  • Some media used to stereotype the image of Italian women. How did the Italian reader receive you as a creative Algerian immigrant woman, novelist and translator?

The people of Italy are friendly, and the region of Piedmont where I live is known for its subtle culture. As a writer, I had unique and heartwarming experiences here. I was visiting Emilio Salgari’s library near my house to write “Sukrat Najma”, and when the librarian found out about it, she offered me to supervise literary workshops in Arabic, through which I received an offer from the owner of an Italian publishing house to join the house’s writers’ team, and so my first work was published in Italy.

Since that day, offers continue to come to me from publishing houses and literary magazines from all over Italy, as well as invitations to participate in literary award arbitration committees and festival organizing committees.

The Italian interest in hearing the Arab voice is embodied in local meetings held by libraries, through wider regional demonstrations, and leading to major national events with an international dimension, such as my invitation to give a lecture on Africa Day organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Draghi government (Prime Minister of Italy 2021-2022), This is evidence of the interest that the Italian intellectual has for his Arab counterpart.

It is an appreciation I exchange and invitations that I cherish. I fulfill some of them with love, and I apologize for some of them as well, for being busy with raising my two children. This is something that no Arab mother should be ashamed of or consider as a stereotype that should be overcome.

Arabesque is an attempt to shed light on what is aesthetic in Arab culture through a team consisting of professors specialized in Arabic literature, anthropology and philosophy.

  • You were not satisfied with creativity in the novel as a literary genre that has a wide audience in Italy, but rather you took it upon yourself to translate and write about Arabic literature and to introduce Arab creators to the Italian public through the semi-annual series “Arabesque” that you run. How did this experience start as an idea and then move towards publishing to the Italian public?

The idea arose due to the absence of any periodical addressed to the Italian reader dealing with issues of Arab literature and culture in a way that highlights their depth, diversity and richness, as studies in Arabic literature were limited to peer-reviewed journals directed exclusively to academics.

This is in addition to the ideological line that characterizes most of the approaches that deal with Arab cultural production, which has turned Arab culture in Italy into a material directed to the category of political and social activists, and not to the gourmet reader interested in issues of art and literature.

Hence, Arabesque came in an attempt to shed light on what is aesthetic in Arab culture through a team consisting of professors specialized in Arabic literature, anthropology and philosophy, as well as highly qualified translators, artists and critics.

  • What is the fate or future of the world of literary translation from Arabic into European languages, especially after the difficulties faced by well-established magazines and newspapers (issued from Europe) such as the English “Banipal”?

The current prevailing opinion says that governments should support translation from Arabic into European languages, and this is an opinion I supported not long ago, but my current opinion may surprise you.

Literary projects should remain passion projects. Literary translation, as all translators know, is something quite similar to the love stories between the translator and the culture he is translating from and into. It is normal for any story to end if the passion is extinguished, so I am not even inclined to turn the endings of these projects into dramatic stations.

It is more appropriate to contemplate these experiences as human detours of paths that have a beginning and an end that are subject to the laws of life.

The world of literature and its environs is a reflection of the essence of the human psyche. The source of its charm stems from its fragility and the fear of losing it. Therefore, the reader’s gathering around it must be done naturally, not motivated by funding.

The natural fuel for literature and its translation should not be anything other than love, which, if it dies in one heart, will be born in another heart. Believing otherwise is simply a belief in the death of literature. But if the idea of ​​financing literary translation into European languages ​​is adopted as a strategic tool, we must not forget that such operations may never achieve their goals due to their depiction in the West as open operations to build soft power.

Failed experiences of this kind have already occurred in Italy. The worst thing about this idea is that it may transform the Arab culture in the world into a rentier culture.

  • Your name has become among the contributions to the Italian Library, which was also monitored by the book “The Cultural Product of Women in Contemporary Italy” by researchers Sharon Hecker and Kathryn Ramsey. On the other hand, there are those who consider this classification as evidence of their satisfaction with your fusion with the new orientalist feminist models.. What is your comment?

I think that everyone who has read my writings, whether in Arabic or Italian (and I am in Italian, by the way, is more clear and direct) is fully aware that I am one of the most skeptical of the feminist condition and the attempts to impose it by the neo-Orientalist machine with neocolonial (neo-colonial) agendas exposed as a template ready for the intellectual and creative production of Arab women .

The two American researchers, Sharon Hecker and Kathryn Ramsey, have already discussed in their book my experience as a cultural model opposed to this trend that tries to present a specific form for Arab women within the Italian creative space.

The book The Cultural Product of Women in Contemporary Italy by American researchers Sharon Hecker and Kathryn Ramsey (Al-Jazeera)

Perhaps the most prominent evidence of my tweeting outside the flock of this ideology that many have chosen to dissolve into as a tool for integration, is my inclusion as the only Arab woman in a nearly 500-page book that deals with the creative and intellectual output of women in Italy since the fall of fascism to the present day.

  • You are active in dialogues and cultural seminars related to the Arab world and the Palestinian cause here in Italy. What is the secret of this mixture, and was it a coincidence that permeated the path of immigration or a planned project?

Rather, say it is just a spontaneous interaction with the elements of the environment to which I belong. I don’t even call my transition from Algeria to Italy an emigration, but a migration, because of the fluidity of the verb that this word implies.

This is how I like to see my journey in life as a smooth experience that is not shrouded in any material or symbolic violence. The word emigration, on the other hand, is fraught with violence, the violence of separating from a certain place and defecting from it, and the violence of seizing the other place and trying to cling to it forcefully. The secret of the mixture is simply our sense of belonging to everything that makes us feel our humanity.

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