Honored for Arabian translations

Updated: 2011-09-26 08:06

(China Daily)

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The King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Award for Translation is scheduled to take place in Beijing on Oct 11.

Of the total 11 winners, Zhong Jikun, professor of Arabian literature at Peking University's School of Foreign Languages, is the only one from China.

Also the president of Arabian Literature Research Society in China, Zhong is being honored for his outstanding contribution to Chinese and Arabian cultural exchanges.

"The honor came as a surprise to me," the 73-year-old told China Daily over the telephone. "I just did what one is supposed to do in this position."

"I feel I did far from enough," he said.

Chinese and Arabian cultures were beacons along the ancient Silk Road and exerted great influence over the world during the Middle Ages, Zhong said.

Ancient poetry from the Middle East is no less rich than China's, he noted, yet the Arabian treasure is less known to Chinese readers than popular Western literature, not to mention the modern Arabian literature.

Many Chinese readers know nothing about Arabian literature, except One Thousand and One Nights, he added.

Publishing houses value Western cultural works more for market consideration and tend to ignore publications about Arabian culture, he said.

Shortage of copyrights and high-quality translations are also contributing factors, he said. Of 105 selected famous Arabian novels in the 20th century, at most one quarter has been introduced to China.

A translator needs to concentrate and work hard, a time-consuming and tough job that many young people nowadays are reluctant to take on, said the veteran scholar involved in the field for half a century.

Among the books and essays he has translated, Zhong has introduced more than 400 ancient Arabian poems by some 130 poets.

He also published a million-word book, the General History of Arabian Literature, which covers 18 countries in both ancient and modern times. Rare even in Arabian countries, the masterpiece has been widely acclaimed.

At the same time, he also introduced many modern Arabian writers' novels to Chinese readers.

Not surprisingly Zhong has participated in extensive cultural exchanges.

Founded in 2006, the annual international award is designed to honor distinguished translation works and prominent institutions that contributed significantly to the field of translation from and into Arabic.

This is the first time the event will be held in China. Last year, it took place in France.

(China Daily 09/26/2011 page6)