A List: The ‘Funny, Uplifting’ Arabic Novels in Translation

Looking for some Arabic humor? Take a look at these.


A reader in Washington, D.C. said that a number of her students have asked where the funny, uplifting Arabic novels are in translation:

drama-masks-300x2381There is certainly no shortage of humor in Arabic writing, from the earliest poems to the present. Indeed, Egypt’s signature regional export has been humor. But funny is a difficult thing to translate. What is hilarious in one context is often head-scratching in another. Jonathan Wright, for instance, admitted he simply removed a joke from his translation of Khaled al-Khamissi’s Taxi because he couldn’t find a way for it to make the leap into English.

He got rid of the Viagra joke, he said, “because I couldn’t see a way to convey the pun on the two aspects of wuquuf, stopping and standing. [The joke] referred to a warning on the packet that read: wuquuf mutakarrir [makes frequent stops], the warning they put on the back of buses.”

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