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The Translator by Leila Aboulela

The Translator (1999)

by Leila Aboulela

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3051555,310 (3.54)48



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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
It was rich and enchanting. ( )
  RealLifeReading | Jan 19, 2016 |
A lot of the reviews on the cover of this book refer to the “restraint” with which it is written, and I would have to say that restraint was the main impression it left me with. It was like watching TV through a veil. The central idea was really interesting – the relationship between a Muslim woman and her boss, a Scottish academic who is an expert on Islam but not a convert. To be honest, I couldn’t hear enough about this particular conundrum, but there seemed a determination not to overcook it, to step back and consider other matters. Heck, why not leave the country altogether.

Undeniably, the writing was elegant, and I liked the way the author helped us to see the UK through foreign eyes. There was poetry in every line, and somehow with only a scraping of backstory, it managed to paint a rounded picture of the characters’ lives. On the other hand, I really wanted a clearer understanding of what led to the story’s ultimate resolution. It was a bit like going to one of those really posh restaurants where everything is cooked to perfection but there is very little of it. ( )
  jayne_charles | Dec 29, 2014 |
This is the story of Sammar, a young Sudanese widow working as a translator in an Aberdeen university. When her husband, Tariq (who was also her cousin), a medical student at the university, was killed in an accident several years earlier, Sammar was so devastated that she left their son with her mother-in-law. (It's hard to empathize with a mother who says to her toddler, "Why couldn't it have been you?") She returned to Aberdeen, where she has lived a lonely life.

But things are changing all at once. Sammar has been selected as translator for a two-year project that will take her back to Africa. She has decided to visit her aunt/mother-in-law and to bring her son Amir back Scotland with her. One snag in the plan is that Sammar has fallen in love with Rae, her supervisor, a professor and expert in Islam. If he asks her to marry him, Sammar won't leave. The catch is that she won't marry Rae unless he converts to Islam--not only converts but sincerely accept her faith.

As others have said, the novel becomes more of a romance than a study of faith and culture at this point. I did not find any of the characters very appealing. In fact, I found Sammar's passive-aggressive personality downright irritating. Rae was a bit of a stereotype as well: the intellectualizing academic, once burned in love, forever hesitant, his answer to whether or not he believes in the tenets of Islam is "I don't know." In other words, a lot of wishy-washy people who think they know what they want but aren't certain enough to go for it. And the conclusion, yes, is just too pat.

I've read better novels by Abouleleh, but she hasn't stunned me yet. I'm willing to give her another try . . . but not for awhile. ( )
2 vote Cariola | Jun 21, 2013 |
Rarely do I give a book 5 stars, but I was entranced by this one. Aboulela's writing reads like poetry. ( )
  espref | Apr 16, 2013 |
I liked this author's language very much, I liked the set-up and how the story unfolded, and I thought the ending was wish fulfillment that required no compromise from the protagonist and complete capitulation by another character. This was disappointing and shifted the novel from literature to genre romance. All the way through I was anticipating reading more by this author; now I'm not sure I will.
( )
  OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (2 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Leila Aboulelaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Scherpenisse, WimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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But I say what comes to me
From my inner thoughts
Denying my eyes.

--Abu Nuwas (757-814)
First words
She dreamt that it rained and she could not go out to meet him as planned.
'It means conversations with friends, late at night. It's what the desert nomads liked to do, talk leisurely by the light of the moon, when it was no longer so hot and the day's work was over.'
The familiar names of towns, in black type against the yellow, moved her. Kassala, Dafur, Sennar. Kaduli, Karima, Wau. Inside her was their sheer dust and meagreness. Sunshine and poverty. Voices of those who endured because they asked so little of life.
Outside, Sammar stepped into a hallucination in which the world had swung around. Home had come here. Its dimly lit streets, its sky and the feel of home had come here and balanced just for her. She saw the sky cloudless with too many stars, imagined the night warm, warmer than indoors. She smelled dust and heard the barking of stray dogs among the street's rubble and pot-holes. A bicycle bell tinkled, frogs croaked, the muezzin coughed into the microphone and began the azan for the Isha prayer.
'But you can never tell about people,' said Sammar.
She could hardly open her eyes to put the key in the lock, light was a source of suffering. And a headache, pain greater than childbirth. Inside, she wanted to hit her head against something to dislodge what was inside.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802170269, Paperback)

American readers were introduced to the award-winning Sudanese author Leila Aboulela with Minaret, a delicate tale of a privileged young African Muslim woman adjusting to her new life as a maid in London. Now, for the first time in North America, we step back to her extraordinarily assured debut about a widowed Muslim mother living in Aberdeen who falls in love with a Scottish secular academic. Sammar is a Sudanese widow working as an Arabic translator at a Scottish university. Since the sudden death of her husband, her young son has gone to live with family in Khartoum, leaving Sammar alone in cold, gray Aberdeen, grieving and isolated. But when she begins to translate for Rae, a Scottish Islamic scholar, the two develop a deep friendship that awakens in Sammar all the longing for life she has repressed. As Rae and Sammar fall in love, she knows they will have to address his lack of faith in all that Sammar holds sacred. An exquisitely crafted meditation on love, both human and divine, The Translator is ultimately the story of one woman’s courage to stay true to her beliefs, herself, and her newfound love.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:19:51 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Sammar is a Sudanese widow working as an Arabic translator at a Scottish university when she begins to translate for Rae, a secular Islamic scholar. The two develop a deep friendship that awakens in Sammar all the longing for a life she has repressed. As Rae and Sammar fall in love, she knows theywill have to address his lack of faith in all that Sammar holds sacred"--Back cover.… (more)

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