Munir Baalbaki (1918-1999)

Language: Arabic

Jane Eyre translation: 1985

Munir Baalbaki is easily considered a giant of the field and is nicknamed the ‘sheikh of translators in the modern era’ by fellow translators, literary critics and philologists alike. From the translations of Jane Eyre that I have reviewed so far (circa 10), the vast majority of these translations relied extensively on Baalbaki’s 1988 translation. It is as if Baalbaki’s translation had become ‘the original of the original’ by virtue of constituting itself as a new canon within translation studies in Arabic.

Baalbaki read Arabic literature and Islamic studies at the American University of Beirut (AUB) and pursued further postgraduate studies in Baghdad where he also taught and further acquainted himself with Pan-Arabism. He founded, with his friend Baheej Othman, the publishing house Dar El Ilm Lilmalayin (House of Education for the Millions) which has continued to publish his English-Arabic dictionary dictionary Al-Mawrid (now in different formats; complete, concise, pocket, bilingual, middle-sized, etc) which has exceeded its 40th edition.

He translated more than a hundred books from English, including The Story of My Experiments with Truth by M. Ghandi, A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens, A Farewell to Arms, The Old Man and the Sea and The Snows of Kilimanjaro by Hemingway, A History of Socialist Thought by G.D. Cole, The Iron Heel by Jack London, History of the Arabs by P. Hitti, etc.

Text by Yousif M. Qasmiyeh