Thursday in Residence with Lina Mounzer
Writing as an Act of Translation
Lina Mounzer © D.R
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Questions of translation have always been central to Lina Mounzer’s writing. It seems to her that there is a kind of estrangement in the act of writing that can only really be described as translation. But she has never been interested in this as just an abstract question: when “living” in one language and writing about it in another, questions of technique, of how to render the feeling and character of a place in a language not its own, sometimes become ethical issues. Living in the Arab world and writing about it in English means inevitably grappling with questions of violence, erasure, misrepresentation and audience expectation. One cannot help but remain constantly alert to possible multiple readings of the text and what it might mean in wider political contexts. How, in that case, to render the most “natural” translation possible, and how to navigate that estrangement from place and language in a way that might serve the work instead of detracting from it?
Lina Mounzer is a Lebanese writer and translator. She contributes regularly to The New York Times and her work has appeared in The Paris Review, 1843, and The Baffler, as well as in the anthologies Hikayat: Short Stories by Lebanese Women (Telegram Books, 2007) and Tales of Two Planets (Penguin, 2020). She writes a monthly column for the Lebanese daily L’Orient Today, chronicling social changes in the wake of the country’s economic collapse. She has translated fiction and essays from the Arabic into English, including work by the Algerian writer Salah Badis and the Lebanese writers Hassan Daoud and Chaza Charafeddine.