Maktoob is the only project in the world dedicated to translating Arabic literature into Hebrew. We aspire to rid Hebrew-language literature of its orientalist conceptions of both Arabs and Arab countries. By implementing mutual sovereignty in translation, Maktoob seeks to combat the segregation of Jews and Palestinians, and to dismantle the colonial power structure between the two languages. Maktoob relies on its work on the joint contributions of Jews and Palestinians in a way that challenges the common model of translation. Instead of using one translator (usually Jewish), we assign two translators to work together on each text, one of whom is always Palestinian.
Launched in 2016, Maktoob was initiated by prominent Palestinian and Jewish figures. Its founders are the late Palestinian author Salman Natour (who passed away a year after launching the project) and Prof. Yehouda Shenhav- Shahrabani, a prominent sociologist who has written a book entitled “The Arab Jews,” and defines himself as such. Shenhav- Shahrabani is the main editor of the Maktoob series, alongside a professional team including Dr. Yonatan Mendel, Eyad Barghuthy, Kifah Abdul Halim and Hanan Saadi.
Maktoob works to showcase the beating heart of Arab and Palestinian literature through its associated network “The Translators’ Forum from Arabic to Hebrew.” The Forum is composed of more than 100 Palestinian and Jewish members, including translators, researchers in the field of literature, and intellectuals. The members of Maktoob and the Translators’ Forum neither seek to build “a cultural bridge” nor do they wish to cover up the conflict with a fig leaf, or to call for “coexistence” in a context of such political inequality. In addition, the members of the Translators’ Forum take a clear stance against orientalism. Our model is the meeting of Arabic and Hebrew in the first Islamic era, specially in Andalusia, which was based on Arab-Jewish dialogue.
Maktoob is an independent, non-commercial and non-profit cultural project, with no relation to any official or governmental institutions. Texts for translation are selected professionally and independently by the editorial board, which is also responsible for all book reviews and lectorship, editing, and copyrighting decisions. Income from the sale of translated books is used to finance additional translations from Arabic to Hebrew.
Maktoob’s work principles:
1. Translation only takes place after dialogue with the author, and with their express permission. Translated works are only used for literary purposes agreed to by the author. The author chooses how they wish to grant copyright, whether orally or in writing, in return for sales or as a donation, etc.
2. Contrary to the individualistic, closed and national Jewish model, translation takes place collectively within a bi-national and bi-lingual team.
3. Maktoob aspires to increase the number of indigenous Arabic translators.
4. Translations should highlight the Arabic elements within the Hebrew language, reflect linguistic diversity as much as possible, and refrain from orientalism, whether obvious or hidden.
5. Translations should combine spoken and written languages in a common space in order to return to the oral traditions of Arabic literature and combat the “latinisation” of the Arabic language in Israel.
6. Each translation is edited in dialogue with the translation team. Rather than simply editing for grammatical and linguistic precision, the priority is to create a textual copy that stands on its own while being in harmony with the original text.
7. Conflicts and disagreements should be discussed within the translation team.
8. Transliteration should be loyal to the Arabic source and not according to the norms that developed in Israel supposedly to make it easier for the eyes and ears of Jewish readers (see a list of Translators’ Forum transliterations here). The Maktoob transliteration rules aim at getting closer to Arabic and the Semitic characteristics of Hebrew. This transliteration method is one of Maktoob’s characteristics and a hallmark of the series.
The Translators’ Forum
The Translators’ Forum from Arabic to Hebrew was established in 2014 in the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem. It gathers leading researchers in the field of translation, including known academics, authors, poets, and both experienced and new translators of Arabic literature and poetry. The forum members see their work as not merely textual, but as a cultural and political action. The Translators’ Forum anchors Maktoob, investigates differences and what can and cannot be transferred into a different language, and identifies opportunities for transference between languages and cultures, while emphasizing the richness of both languages.
The Translators’ Forum meets regularly to discuss selected issues in the field of translation and language, and to consult and continue working on the Maktoob series of publications.
The Index for Literary Translations from Arabic to Hebrew
This index includes most of the literature translated from Arabic to Hebrew from the end of the 19th century until today, and is constantly updated. The index lists texts that have been translated, their genre, author, translator, and place and date of publication. Available to the public, translators and researchers, the index provides the fullest possible picture of translations from Arabic to Hebrew throughout history. The index shows how the new Hebrew literature was influenced by literature originating from neighboring Arab countries, the same countries whose language and culture remain unfamiliar to many Jews.
The index is accessible via Maktoob‘s website (in Hebrew only), since 2018.
Yehouda Shenhav-Shahrabani, Yonatan Mendel, Eyad Barghuthy, Kifah Abdul Halim, Hannah Amit Kochavi, Sheikha Hlewa, Bruria .Horvitz, Rawya Burbara, Ali Haidar, Saleh Ali Swaed, Yonit Naaman, Hanan Saadi.