Four Emirati and Russian authors and expert researchers have analysed the long history of creative relationship between Emirati and Russian literature at a panel discussion, ‘Literary Creativity between Russia and the UAE’ held yesterday (Friday) at the ongoing Moscow International Book Fair (MIBF 2019), which is hosting Sharjah as Guest City.
Moderated by Emirati poet, Shaikha Al Mutairi, the panel was led by Naser Al Dhaheri and Sultan Al Amimi from the UAE and Mikhail Nbkin and Igor Siyed from Russia, who shed light on areas like translation, language and cultural communication, which have been meeting points for the two sides for years.
Emirati author Sultan Al Amimi highlighted the history of Russian and Arabic linguistic influences, how the two languages influenced each other. For instance, Russian words which have Arabic roots and vice versa. He noted that the Russian culinary lexicon, or their words describing animals have Arabic origins. The Arabic vocabulary, he said, was less influenced by the Russian vocabulary, seen in few dialects in the UAE and the Gulf region.
Al Amimi attributed the Arab influence on the Russian language to a series of historical factors like the spread of Islam in many Russian towns and cities, as well as maritime trade and connectivity, which brought together Russians and Arabs on the shores of Arabia, particularly Yemen.
Igor Siyed, representative of the Russian Institute of Translation, discussed the contributions of the institute to giving Arabic readers access to Russian literature and sciences. He said that the institute has been offering grants to those who are keen on translating Russian titles to other languages, which has spread across 200 languages worldwide including several acquisitions by Arab publishers.
Igor underscored that the institute’s selection criteria is dedicated to ensuring that the translated works are inclusive in nature, and include classical literature, Soviet literature, scientific books and contemporary literature. He noted that Russia sponsors over 100 literary awards each year.
Mikhail Nbkin discussed the history and realities of literary translation. “We do not have a systematic tradition of translating Arabic literature into Russian. It has always been based on individual efforts, significant challenges have been encountered to translate Arabic poetry, particularly the classical genre that follows rhythmic structures”, he noted.
“Translating Arabic prose has always been easier, especially that many Arab writers were acclaimed globally, such as Naguib Mahfouz, Jurji Zidan, among other renowned Arab novelists,” he added.
He recited a Mu'allaqa, one of the seven best Arabic poems from pre-Islamic Arabia, written by Imru Al Qais, which was translated into Russian by expert Russian literary translators.
Nasser Al Dhaheri addressed this relationship, as he recalled moderating a poetry evening that hosted renowned Russian poet Rasul Gamzatov, at the Cultural Foundation in Abu Dhabi.
He spoke about the experience of translating two stories into Russian, pointing out to the efforts of the Russian Institute of Oriental Studies in the 1970s: “This bilateral relationship between Arabs and the Russians has been on the decline, notwithstanding the fact that Russian literature has played a significant role in developing dialogue between our civilisations. We hope this relationship is strengthened again through Sharjah’s efforts, so we in the UAE and the Arab world are able to enjoy Russia’s contemporary literary product,” he added.
Sharjah’s cultural programme designed to celebrate its selection as Guest City at the ongoing Moscow International Book Fair, features a series of panel discussions and folk shows.