Towards the end of my residency at the BCLT, I had just started editing The Djinn’s Apple, a pacey YA murder mystery set in the Abbasid era, due to be published with Neem Tree Press. For the duration of my residency I have been translating this novel, and used it as a foundation for a Translating YA Literature workshop. It has been quite satisfying how the timeline of translating this work ended up dovetailing with that of my residency. Without a doubt, my work is much richer and refined after having had to prepare for the workshop which included drilling down into my technique and hearing how fellow translators would wrestle with the conundrums I presented.
In this final post of mine I’d like to share a couple of resources I rely on when editing. Translators usually chat about which dictionaries they use when translating, but I’d like to encourage more of us to share the reference books/blog posts/media we lean on when in the editing stage. I was prompted to do this, after I shared on Twitter how I’ve been using The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression. I was surprised by how many people hadn’t come across it, as I heavily rely on it, even if I don’t end up changing what is on the page – it helps me pin down what the physical signs of a particular emotion are and the internal sensations as well. Instances where I do use the suggested options are for example, when a writer likes to use one or two stock phrases to express that a character is surprised. So, for example the entry for surprise reads:
The mouth falling open
A hand flying to the chest
Fingers touching parted lips
A heavy feeling in the stomach
Whereas repetition is more acceptable in other languages, such as Arabic, in English, unless it’s being used as a stylistic tool, repetition is frowned upon.
Another book that I’ve found helpful when trying to diversify the repetition of قال (he said) in Arabic, is The Dialogue Thesaurus: A Fiction Writer’s Sourcebook of Dialogue Tags and Phrases. Here, based on the emotion being expressed there are different dialogue tags. So for the same emotion of surprise being conveyed when someone is saying something, we have:
blurted; blurted out; breathed; burst out; called; called out; cried; cried out; exclaimed; faltered; gasped; gawped; gulped; hesitated; inquired; interjected; interrupted; marveled; objected; protested; puzzled; quaked; quavered; queried; questioned; quivered; quizzed; shouted; shrieked; shrilled; spat out; spluttered; sputtered; squeaked; stammered; started; stressed; stuttered; swore; trembled; trilled; trumpeted; worried; yelped; yowled
Other books that I’ve been dipping in and out of are:
How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript
Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose
Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarify and Style
I’m keen for there to be more conversations around how translators edit and the different kinds of editing that take place prior to manuscript submission and afterwards.
Please share with me @sawadhussain on Twitter which books you regularly use when editing!
 P.208 – I’ve cut the lists short as they are quite extensive.
Sawad Hussain is an Arabic translator and litterateur who is currently co-chair (with Rebecca DeWald) of the Translator’s Association. She was co-editor of the Arabic-English portion of the award-winning Oxford Arabic Dictionary (2014). Her translations have been recognised by the Saif Ghobash Banipal Prize for Arabic Literary Translation, English PEN, the Anglo-Omani Society and the Palestine Book Awards, among others. She has run workshops introducing translation to students and adults under the auspices of Shadow Heroes, Africa Writes, the National Centre for Writing, the British Library, and Shubbak Festival. She has forthcoming translations from Fitzcarraldo Editions, Neem Tree Press, and Restless Books. She holds an MA in Modern Arabic Literature from SOAS. Her Twitter handle is @sawadhussain. Her website is https://sawadhussain.com