Translator C.J. Collins on the soul-affirming work of translating Osama Alomar’s story collection: Fullblood Arabian

Alomar came to the United States in late 2008 to join his mother and older brother who had emigrated in the 1900s. The fact that he was willing to leave behind and established career as a writer for an uncertain life speaks to the hopelessness of the situation in Syria even before its decent into open Civil War. He and I made these translations together in difficult circumstances: most were done in the front seat of his taxi in a Chicago suburb heavy with the ache of immigration and the unimaginable pain of watching one’s country implode from afar. With books and dictionaries piled on the dashboard, hoping the taxi line wouldn’t advance too quickly and force us to break our concentration with another “load,” we were able to make some part of that lost world in Damascus live again, however briefly. This pamphlet is some of the fruit of that soul-affirming work.

C.J. Collins, Fullblood Arabian, from the translators note, pg 62.

Osama Alomar‘s Fullblood Arabian deserves more attention. It’s a perfect book for returning to the office. You can get through five or six short stories while eating your lunch in the shade. Five or six meaningful stories while eating your lunch in the shade.

C.J.’s depiction of the translator’s life, sitting in Alomar’s Chicago taxi cab, getting through pages, stacked dictionaries on the dash, all the while hoping the taxi line doesn’t move, is a reminder of the hidden work that brings a book to life.

I cherish writers, like C.J. who bring you back to a moment with specific, clear, descriptions. It’s like I was in the backseat of the cab, watching a dream unfold.

Pair with Lydia Davis’ New Yorker essay on Osama Alomar – Osama Alomar’s Very Short Tales


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