As what is written and always said, translating any of Naguib Mahfouz’s novels into English was not an easy task and would require a real talented and professional translator who had top linguistic, Pragmatic, semantic, cultural and social knowledge and experience of both Arabic and English.
Problematic Translation for Naguib Mahfouz’s “The Thief and the dogs”
There must have an advanced understanding of the problematic and complicated rhetoric Arabic vocabulary, textual and contextual styles and structures in order to get somewhat accepted translation and have the intercultural gaps bridged.
We are smart translators when we analyze the phrases of the SL to identify their communicative functions, such as referring or attributing properties to entities and events, we look for target language vocabulary or expressions with the same functions that fit in the context. So, we can modify some of the lexical and structural aspects of phrases and we can also delete them altogether, if they are deemed functionally redundant when translated. A phrase is functionally redundant if its lexical content is already encoded somewhere else in the sentence. For example, the relative clause “يمتهن الزراعة” is translated into “who works in agriculture” and the Arabic sentence “ لَا يقرأ وَلَا يكتب” is translated into “who does not read or write”, and they are lexically entailed by the nouns they modify.
This translation can be better done if we put the general nouns or definitions of both descriptions. So, we can say a farmer as he is someone who works in agriculture and replace the second with an illiterate person who does not read or write. Because these definitions are functionally redundant, we do not lose anything by deleting them. (Mustafa Mughazy, 2016, pp. 77-78)
The Translation of Insults
Naguib Mahfouz’s “The Thief and the dogs” was full of insults. So, Translating Egyptian Arabic insults will be very hard for any translator. However, the following example proves that Elyas and Le Gassick succeeded in being insiders in both cultures of both the SL and the TL. (Naguib Mahfouz, (1984) -17)
اسكت يا ابن الثعلب.
[Shut up you son of a fox] (Adel Ata Elyas)
[Shut up, you cunning bastard] (Trevor Le Gassick)
This example shows us that the translators have succeeded in being insiders in both cultures of the source and the target texts. The translation of insults is not easy as they refer to something that is taboo in the culture, they should not be interpreted literally, and they also can be used to express negative feelings and attitudes. Accordingly, the translators have combined a cultural translation, bastard, reflecting the insulting act, plus a pragmatic strategy, maintaining the connotative meaning associated with the word ‘fox’ which is ‘cunning’. (Mohammed Farghal and Ali Almanna, (2015), p. 95)