My First Arabic Book Translation

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I’ve been sitting on this for a while. 

Early in 2017, I was lucky to get put in touch with Sami Al-Hajj and al-Jazeera by a good friend. They were looking for someone to translate Sami’s memoirs from Arabic into English. I had done similar work in the past, working Zaeef’s memoirs from his Guantánamo time that later expanded into My Life With the Taliban. I had never done any serious translation from Arabic, however, particularly of this length.

I finished translating a while back. It was both harder and more enjoyable than I had expected. Harder in that it requires an intense focus that can’t really let up while the translation is happening. More enjoyable since I realised the process was something that brought in a lot of creativity to get the language ‘just right’.

Today, Sami’s memoirs have been published. You can download the PDF version via Al-Jazeera here. It looks like Kindle and iBooks versions will be made available in due course as well.

I hope you get a chance to give this book a read. Not only is it some work that I spent a good chunk of time working on, but it’s a really useful and moving account of someone who passed through Guantánamo. In particular, Sami was often on a hunger strike so there is a lot of detail on his mental state and coping mechanisms, as well as the way the medical authorities at Guantánamo attempted to 'deal' with the problem.