Academic journal article Cross - Cultural Communication

A Moment of Truth in Translating Proper Names in Naguib Mahfouz' Trilogy from Arabic into English

Academic journal article Cross - Cultural Communication

A Moment of Truth in Translating Proper Names in Naguib Mahfouz' Trilogy from Arabic into English

Article excerpt


This study tackles the translation of proper names in Naguib Mahfouz's Trilogy from Arabic into English. A masterpiece of three volumes, namely, Palace Walk, Palace of Desire, and Sugar Street, was translated by Hutchins and Kenny (1990), Hutchins, Kenny and Kenny (1991), and Hutchins and Saman (1992), respectively. In the English translation of this trilogy, proper names were preserved in a process of transliterating, thus maintaining a foreignized sense of rendition. Such mere strategy constitutes an alternative among a spectrum of many others suggested in the domain of translating proper names, viz., creation, adaptation, addition, omission, among others. Nevertheless, the researcher used four proper names as case studies representative of the inadequacy of merely transliterating proper names in Mahfouz's literary work. Mahfouz imbued his work with an enchanting style that became an emblem of his folkloric locality. Yet this folkloric touch was not faithfully depicted in the English translation mainly due to the linguistic and cultural gaps between the source language and the target one. The analysis of the four names that the researcher purposefully chose represents such loss. A charge of functional equivalence and intended irony was traced thereby. Correspondingly, a backup strategy to compensate this inequivalence between the original work and its English rendition proves to be missing in doing justice to such work.

Key Words: Naguib Mahfouz; Literary translation; Foreignization; Domestication; Transliteration


Ever since equivalence was a major bone of contention in the field of translation, proper names stood as a palpable touchstone in tracing an expected loss or gain of meaning per se. Proper names constitute no easy issue for translators who seek an accurate output despite the fact that proper names are generally preserved in their rendition from the source language (SL) into the target language (TL). However, in literary translation a translator cannot but prioritize what the original author of a literary piece chose to be a functional and intentional priority in employing such techniques as proper names in this study.

Jaleniauskiene and Cicelytë (2009, p. 31) stated that "when proper names appear in a literary text, we can evaluate their presence having in mind different aspects: the use of special names, the use of meaningful names, interpretation of names, text function or effect they create, etc." Literature is a miniature of reality where proper names relate to referents with a minimum charge of denotation flexible enough to stretch intentionally in literature to further dense connotative and associative loads of meaning. Nevertheless, some scholars and critics perceived the relationship between a literary name and its bearer as more than merely close and denotative (Bertills, 2003). Not only do literary names hold functional roles but they trigger their reader's schema by activating each reader's personal background, hence allowing the new ideas and interpretations to be set free. Furthermore, names of literary characters are not devoid of artistic creativity and linguistic innovation. As King suggested,

Instead of insisting that a name refers to a specific object or concept exclusively, I argue that poetic names contain semiotic spaces that describe, refer to, and voice a kind of deep talk of their own within an encoded text. This deep talk is the interpretive discourse, or utterances, of a poetic name that expresses actions and onomastic intent. It assumes multileveled interpretive roles within literature-roles that pivot upon a name's use as symbolic, metaphoric, métonymie, or allegorical discourse. (Bertille, 2003, p. 181)


In this paper the researcher shall explore the roles of proper names purposefully selected from Mahfouz 's Trilogy as case studies and the strategies that translators need to activate in rendering such names into the target language per se. …

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