Syrian-born Palestinian Saleh Almani, a one of a kind translator who helped translate a whole library of Latin American literature into Arabic, died today in Madrid at the age of 70.
Almani is best known for his translations of the iconic novel 100 Years of Solitude by late Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, as well as most of the writer's other works.
Almani was born in Homs, Syria in 1949, and studied Spanish literature at university. He translated a whole library of Latin American literature including the works of Márquez, Mario Vargas Llosa, Federico García Lorca, Isabel Allende, José Saramago and Jorge Luis Borges.
Almani's death news was announced by his son-in-law Jo Bazlamit, who wrote in a Facebook post, “With deep sorrow I announce that I received this morning the news of the death of my father-in-law Saleh Almani, the great translator in Spain, may God accept him in his mercy.”
Almani, who was residing in Spain, translated more than 100 works of Latin American literature into Arabic.
The late translator started his journey with translation in an odd way.
In 1970, he travelled to Barcelona to study medicine, but dropped out to study journalism, in which he lasted about a year. After that he worked at a port and mingled with vagabonds and people at the bottom of the social hierarchy. One day, he was hanging out at a cafe in Barcelona when he met a friend who had a book. His friend advised him to read it. The book was the first edition of Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude.
Almani was taken with the language, and decided to translate the book. He translated two chapters then forgot about it, after which he returned to Damascus and started translating short stories from Spanish for local newspapers.
His translations were picked up by the famous critic Hossam El-Kahtib, who wrote about this young Palestinian who was translating gems of the Latin American literature.
From this point on, he would become one of the most influential translators of Spanish literature into Arabic.