Translating ‘Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge’: ‘Evil, Banal, and Kind of Understandable’

Arabic Literature (in English)

Translator John Peate talks about the challenges of translating Embrace on Brooklyn Bridge — his first full-length novel — what attracted him to the book, and what kept him coming back:

What aspect of the book first attracted you? For myself, throughout the whole first chapter I wanted to pound it against a hard surface or punch Darwish in the face. I’m not sure if that’s an attraction per se….

John Peate: Darwish’s self-centredness is unflinchingly portrayed, but, having spent time around academics, I found the characterization attractively familiar, in good and bad ways. That his plan to orchestrate the other characters to come to the party falls apart provides a neat framework for all the other missed opportunities and incompletenesses the book explores. The book encourages us to look at the characters in both passionate and dispassionate ways and that, I think, sustains the interest. That said, I first worked…

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