Graphic Novels in Translation


The Arab of the Future
The Arab of the Future 2

Last week there was a surprise in my mailbox – a free copy of Riad Sattouf’s The Arab of the Future 2, the second installment of Riad’s childhood memoir, set in a Syrian village near the city of Homs – now ravaged beyond recognition.

Sattouf’s story is a beautifully direct, clear-eyed, but dark story of hyphenated identity, problem fathers, powerlessness, and the political and social culture of 1980s Syria. It’s an assimilation story, but in the opposite direction of the assimilation story we see most often as Western readers.

The emergence of graphic novels as an attention-worthy literary genre in the US is fantastic news. Graphic novels have a unique ability to communicate cultural awareness, BUT because the text is intrinsically linked to the illustrations, the task of translating becomes even more complex.

And if (like me) you’re at all curious about the challenges and decisions taking place in the translation of graphic novels, pick up a copy of the original French version for a much more interesting side-by-side than 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei. 😉





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