Academic journal article The Southern Review

Translator's Note

Academic journal article The Southern Review

Translator's Note

Article excerpt

ABDOURAHMAN WABERI'S POEMS, like his novels, stories, and essays, carry the important message of religious tolerance. Muslim by birth, Dr. Waberi, in Passage of Tears, documents the life of Walter Benjamin, the German Jewish essayist, translator, philosopher, and literary critic who committed suicide, in 1940, while trying to evade capture by the Nazis. In keeping with Dr. Waberi's respect for other religions that preach tolerance, "Rosary for Timbuktu" is a prayer from the Roman Catholic tradition, consisting of six poems dedicated to the treasures of Timbuktu, which Islamic extremists began destroying in 2012.

Before translating the poem, I prepared a "sound map" of the complete original text (assonance and alliteration) to get a sense of the poem's rich texture of sounds. French, by nature, tends to be very melodious, with repetitious vowels singing, even in everyday speech. My challenge was to maintain a close relationship to the literal meaning, while still honoring the music of the text. Many French vowel sounds do not exist in English (e.g., the nasal vowels, as well as the crispness of certain vowels), so I was pleased to replicate the repetition of vowel sounds and approximate the exact French sound i in the example below, taken from the first section of "Rosary for Timbuktu. …

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