Dun Karm Psaila’s opus to get Arabic translation by Walid Nabhan

National literature prize-winner Walid Nabhan is translating a number of Dun Karm Psaila's literary work into Arabic

Walid Nabhan. Photo by Virginia Monteforte
Walid Nabhan. Photo by Virginia Monteforte

Malta’s national poet, Dun Karm Psaila, will be given a bigger audience when national literature prize-winner Walid Nabhan translates his masterpiece ‘Il-Jien U Lilhinn Minnu’ and a selection of his other poems in Arabic.

Psaila’s opus deals with the universal human condition and the individual’s anguish in the face of the Creator.

Maltese author Nabhan was born in Amman to a family of refugees from Hebron in Palestine during the Naqba, and arrived in Malta 28 years ago as a science student.

For him, this is a unique opportunity to bridge cultures.

“But I also feel torn between the privilege of translating Dun Karm into Arabic for the very first time in history, and burdened by a great responsibility of having Malta’s most noble voice entrusted in my hands.”

Nabhan said that Arabs are generally fond of poetry, but not just any poetry. “It puts my emotional and linguistic abilities at stake. It is a decisive and binary moment in my career. We are talking about an audience of 384 million readers.”

The literary project is supported by the National Book Council, and involves the translation of a selection of Dun Karm’s poems into Arabic, apart from an academic examination of the poet’s legacy and the translated poems. The project will be completed by the end of 2019.

“The significance of this project lies in the regrettable fact that Malta’s national poet has never been translated into Arabic, despite the cultural and genetic linguistic closeness between Arabic and Maltese,” Nabhan said, who described the outcome of the translation as a chemistry of cultures and a deep understanding of historical context.

“Translation for me, is about re-flowering the receiving language with the exact odour and colour of each petal depicted by the poet, meaning, capturing the inner feelings of the poet at the very moment of giving birth to his poem. This requires a solid knowledge not only of the language, but also of the culture of the language and its people.

Nabhan worked as a scientist at the laboratory at the Malta Dairy Products factory for a number of years, and is the author of L-Eżodu taċ-Ċikonji (2013) which won the Maltese National Prize for Literature in 2014, and the EU Prize for Literature in 2017. He also published a collection of poetry in Maltese in 2014. Nabhan has also translated works of Maltese literature into Arabic and is currently translating poems by former MaltaToday journalist Karl Schembri.