Posted on March 13, 2011 by Jan 25 Translators

Our first assignment was the translation of a selection from “Al Midan”, a poem by Abdel Rahman al-Abnoudi composed in colloquial Egyptian Arabic on the occasion of the January 25th Revolution. Listen to his recitation in Arabic here.

A few of these lines also accompany the brilliant Sout el-Horreya video
(link), and we came across two English translations of these lines.

Version I

Dark Egyptian hands that know how to characterize
Reach out through the roar to destroy the frames
The creative youth came out and turned autumn into spring
They have performed the miracle and raised the murdered from murder
Kill me, killing me will not bring back your country
In my blood I shall write a new life for my home
My blood is it or the spring? Both in green color
Am I smiling because of my happiness or my sorrows?

Version II

Egyptian hands understanding how to differentiate
Breaking the mirrors of deception
The beautiful youth showed up to change it is winter to spring
And made the miracle and awoke the deadened country from its death
Kill me, killing me won’t return your rule again
I’m writing with my blood a new life for my country
This is my blood or is it the spring
Both of them are green
And am I smiling from my happiness or my sadness?

These transliterations are just that: literal, word for word translations, designed to address a perceived immediacy of communicating meaning. They deprive the reader and listener from the full body of the poem: its music, rhythm, image, linguistic register, social and cultural signification and so on.

Our assignment focused on an introductory segment of the poem:

ايادي مصرية سمرا ليها في التمييز

ممددة وسط الزئير بتكسر البراويز

سطوع لصوت الجموع شوف مصر تحت الشمس

آن الآوان ترحلي يا دولة العواجيز

عواجيز شداد مسعورين اكلوا بلدنا اكل

ويشبهوا بعضهم نهم وخسة وشكل

طلع الشباب البديع قلبوا خريفها ربيع

وحققوا المعجزة صحوا القتيل من القتل

اقتلني قتلي ما هيعيد دولتك تاني

بكتب بدمي حياة تانية لأوطاني

دمي دة ولا الربيع الاتنين بلون اخضر

وببتسم من سعادتي ولا احزاني

Our class is divided into three groups that bring together native and non-native speakers of both the Source Language (Arabic) and Target Language (English) in a collective approach to the process of translation, which is fraught with a myriad of challenges. The role of non-Arabic (specifically native English) speakers is particularly important in the production of the translations: they harbor a natural affinity for the use and signification of the various symbols that constitute the language, and always necessarily inform the decision-making process in a variety of ways. Similarly, native Arabic speakers carry the responsibility, as translators, of applying their command of Arabic, as well as a degree of social and cultural insight, to unpacking, deconstructing and rethinking signification: what does a word, sentence, idiom, or even an image, or a particular juxtaposition, actually mean. In all cases, the translators’ awareness of subjectivity, difference and diversity is at the forefront of decision-making, and the interactive process of translation is therefore incomplete without a profound appreciation and navigation of audience: that which prompts the production and dissemination (that is, the life) of a work, and that which attracts and guides the process of translation itself.

What follows is each group’s translation, followed by their comments. It is important to remember that there is no singular, final product, and therefore, we encourage your feedback. Please comment below or e-mail us your thoughts, reflections, and insights, or even alternative translations, at