Wednesday, April 19, 2017
What can you say about the movement towards writing in a regional dialect, rather than in Modern Standard Arabic? Is it very common, and has it affected the audience or marketability of the texts in question? What about logistical issues, like accurately representing a spoken dialect in the Arabic alphabet given the presence of non-standard phonemes?
This is such a meaty question! We could do a whole interview on this topic. I'll try to hit some of the highlights.
[Children's literature] is a thorny issue. Some authors want to write picture books in spoken dialect—and some have, like Sonia Nimr—but publishers tend to be very opposed, as they want to be able to sell into multiple markets and submit to prizes. Unfortunately, this even goes for dialogue. I loved Rania Amin's Screams Behind Doors, which won the Etisalat Prize for best YA novel last November, but it felt weird to have these girls speaking to each other in Modern Standard Arabic. Rania told me she'd written the dialogue in Egyptian, but the publisher “fixed” it, worried they couldn't otherwise submit to prizes and suchlike. A bit galling.
Henry Ace Knight interviews Marcia Lynx Qualey, blogger at ArabLit.org ("Arabic literature in English"). The whole interview is terrific, with many new names (to those, anyway, hitherto unfamiliar with ArabLit.org) to follow up. The rest at Asymptote, here.