Tuesday, 17 July 2012, 10:05 GMT
Sabir: The translation is never faithful to the text

Kurdish translator Jabbar Sabir./PRESS PHOTO

Interview by
Shorsh Ghafuri

Kurdish Globe interview with Translator Jabbar Sabir

Globe: Sometimes translation is labeled as the transition of cultures, but this might not be a good definition for translation as the idea of bringing in the experience, open-mindedness and other ideas that might not be very familiar to the target language and audience, hence we cannot separate translation form the establishment of the society?

Sabir: No it cannot be. Translation is a very important bridge and the stronger this bridge is the stronger the relationships will be. If it was not thanks to translation, how could we know who was Plato? Through bringing a new culture to a society, translation strengthens its foundations. We always know others through translation and know what they are doing and how they are living. This does not only include books, texts and printing, but this is true for other things: for instance transmitting a piece of news from a country to another, give us information that we have not known before, and sometimes we hear the names of these countries through news.

Globe: Till a few years ago, Qamoos Dictionary was a poor dictionary with a limited number of words an term, but we have not become confident that we can have a Kurdish Oxford, and not necessarily all its words are Kurdish, but rather Kurdicized. Now the intellectual shelf of the Kurdish library is quite occupied. In your opinion how are the dictionaries and do you think that they have been worked out in an academic way or just arbitrarily prepared and published?

Sabir: What currently exists is promising and for evaluating the quality we need to wait for now. We have not had anything, and now as we are starting, we should not hurry in judging. This is for other nations to judge, criticize and differentiate the good from the bad. I think we can have everything now, and when we have plenty, then readers would differentiate the good from the bad and bad work would never survive.

Globe: They were saying that poetry should not be translated, while novel is translated easily. Was this devaluation of Novel or story not lack of conscience of those who were making such claims?

Sabir: No, not necessarily. Novel and poetry are very different in terms of form. Despite this fact, there is a saying that the meaning of a poem is in the heart of the poet. The difficulty of translating poetry is that sometimes there are some poetic imagery that cannot actually be transferred or translated to another language, or even if it could be, it will lose its meaning and value. But this process is easier with novel and story. In principle translation is something like an infidelity to a text, whether poetry or novel, but one cannot avoid this infidelity, i.e. this is an acceptable and beautiful infidelity.

Globe: There is a close relationship between the Kurdish and Persian literature, especially story, although one cannot compare the experiences, but how can you talk about Persian story-writing?

Sabir: Not only in terms of literature, but in all aspects we are very far from each other. This might be related to political, cultural and economic situations. We are far behind them. This is a deep topic in itself, which we cannot discuss here. But as you mentioned there are some things in common between us and them, and in some aspects we have common dreams, which has made our literature to be near to each other. I have been reading Persian literature in detail for the past few years and I have found out that our men and theirs have dreams in common, especially on the social, economic and sometime political aspects.


Jabbar Saeed is one of the well-known and active Kurdish translators who is known to the children and adults of Kurdistan with his works.

He has translated more than 20 kids, books, 8 novels and group of stories. Moreover, he has three books about poetry and novel. As he always argues, biography is not as important as the works an author or translator delivers to the Kurdish library and a successful author can use the words in his works to describe himself and his quality.