Frankfurt Book Fair: Arabist slamsGerman tastes in Arabic literature

8th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

8 October 2004 , FRANKFURT- A leading German translator of Arabic literature has slammed the German reading public's preference for magical rather than realistic stories from writers in the Arab world. In an interview at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where the Arab World is special guest this year, Stefan Weidner said German book-lovers evidently had little interest in "authentic" Arab literature. They preferred "worn-out oriental cliches". "Rafik Schami and 'A Thousand and One Nights' fulfil 95 percent of the

8 October 2004

FRANKFURT- A leading German translator of Arabic literature has slammed the German reading public's preference for magical rather than realistic stories from writers in the Arab world.

In an interview at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where the Arab World is special guest this year, Stefan Weidner said German book-lovers evidently had little interest in "authentic" Arab literature. They preferred "worn-out oriental cliches".

"Rafik Schami and 'A Thousand and One Nights' fulfil 95 percent of the demand for anything Arabic," said the author and scholar, who has translated into German works by the Syrian poet known as Adonis and the Palestian Mahmud Darvish.

Schami, a Syrian who lives in Germany, writes fairy-tale-style stories that are very successful in the west but practically unknown among Arab readers.

Weidner criticized Schami and some other Arab authors in exile, saying they tended to regard authors who had stayed home as rivals.

He said those still based in the Arab world were not blameless either, since they often unjustifiably accused all the exiles of being "westernized". That criticism was often heard of Adonis.

The 74-year-old, whose real name is Ali Ahmed Said, lives in Paris and has repeatedly been nominated for a Nobel literature prize.

The translator said that despite his modernism, Adonis was rooted in Arabic tradition.

"His elitist writing does not match up with expectations that many westerners have of Arabs," said Weidner. "If you want to understand a poem by Adonis, you always have to read it through at least twice."

DPA

Subject: German news 

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