In this week’s interview, correspondent Shin Yu Pai talks with Arabic language and literature scholar Michael Cooperson about his translation of Iraqi author al-Harīrī’s collection of fifty tales—an essential work of Arabic literature and a masterpiece of wit and wordplay. Often declared to be “untranslatable,” the eleventh-century text follows the roguish wordsmith Abū Zayd al-Sarūjī in his adventures around the medieval Middle East. Cooperson shares deft translations of astoundingly complex expressions of the Arabic language using fifty different registers of English—from the distinctive literary styles of Geoffrey Chaucer, Mark Twain, and Virginia Woolf, to global varieties of English including Cockney rhyming slang, Nigerian English, and Singaporean English. Get an insider’s look and stay in the know about what’s going on in this moment at Town Hall Seattle.
Michael Cooperson is Professor of Arabic in the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures at UCLA. His translations include The Life of Ibn Ḥanbal by Ibn al-Jawzī for the Library of Arabic Literature, and The Author and His Doubles by the eminent Moroccan literary critic Abdelfattah Kilito.
Shin Yu Pai is the author of eight books of poetry. Her work has appeared in publications throughout the U.S., Japan, China, Taiwan, The United Kingdom, and Canada. Her essays and nonfiction writing have appeared in Tricycle, YES! Magazine, The Rumpus, City Arts, The Stranger, Medium, and others.
Presented by Town Hall Seattle.