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Necessary Impossibilities: Activist Translations of Anti-Colonial Arabic Literature into Malayalam
One of the common presuppositions of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s many essays on translation is that translation is a necessity, at the same an impossible task, making it clear that translation, is ultimately a political practice done with a commitment to the text and the author, an idea that often appears in the theorizations of scholars such as Richard Jacquemond and Samah Selim, which they call ‘activist translation’. This paper articulates how the concept of ‘activist translation’ is manifested in Malayalam translations of Arabic literary texts written in the context of anti-colonial resistance. Palestinian literature, for example, reiterates this necessity primarily in two ways; for the shared history of colonial oppression and the ongoing resistance in the region against the Zionist forces. As much as there is a need to bring these texts into 'major languages', a need many theorists identify as means to build solidarity among the global communities, this paper demonstrates that there is a need to translate them into ‘minor languages’ as well, in order to foster affinity among the communities by bridging the linguistic and cultural gaps, especially in the Global South. Ghassan Kanafani’s Rijal fi al-Shams (1962) and Ashraf Kizhuparamba’s Malayalam translation of the novel, Sooryathaapathil (2014) are exemplary in this case, primarily because the novel’s theme of migration to Gulf region in the late 20th century resonates with the ‘Gulf boom’ in Kerala around the same time, and secondarily because the political subtext of the novel is addressing the new awareness of the Palestinian struggle among Keralites.
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