Q&A with Camelia Sobhi: Erasing culture borders on Translator's Day

Dina Kabil for Al-Ahram Hebdo, Monday 15 Oct 2012

National Centre for Translation Director Camelia Sobhy talks of plans and initiatives on Egypt's Day of the Translator, which aims to help bridge world culture gaps

Camellia Sobhy
Camellia Sobhy (Photo: Ahram Gate)

The National Centre of Translation recently dedicated 15 October to celebrate Egyptian translators. The Centre's director and head of Foreign Cultural Relations at the Ministry of Culture, Camellia Sobhy, takes the opportunity to argue that culture flows between countries.

Al-Ahram Hebdo: 15 October is dedicated to the translator. What were the reactions of various institutions working in the field of translation to the establishment of the day? Has the National Centre for Translation received responses to the invitations they sent to institutions a few months ago to commemorate the date?

Camellia Sobhy: In fact, the centre has received more than 15 responses to the invitation. These are institutions that are concerned with translation, the translator and the culture in general. Among universities involved there's the University of Cairo, Ain Shams, Mansoura, Menoufiya, the French University and the American University in Cairo. We have also received requests from some publishers, such as Al-Masriya Al-Lubnaneya and Afaq. The Bibliotheca Alexandrina and many cultural centres also expressed their willingness to participate. The activities of this day are varied: seminars on the translator and translation exposures for translated books, lectures on translating films; all revolving around different types of translation and translators. Each event will dedicate its programme to everything related to the importance of the translator and their work as a means of communication between civilisations.

AH: Will we see a main event for the day and translators or foreign guests from other countries on this occasion?

CS: I consider this day as a kind of Mother's Day celebrated in Egypt. Is there a main event on a day like this? No. But the celebration takes place inside every home. Same for the day of the translator; I think all the participants have made plans. What matters to me is the translator. All activities will be held the same day in each university, cultural centre or institution. Each of these institutions has its own audience and visitors. Attracting the largest possible audience, offering a variety of seminars and talking about the importance of the translator in cultural life are the goals of this day. I hope that in the future a translators' union will come about as a result. The National Centre for Translation works according to the available resources. The diversity of places, subjects and the ease with which we will address the public are important for the success of such an event.

AH: You were part of the Egyptian delegation in a recent visit to China. What have been the outcomes on the cultural front?

CS: China is willing to cooperate with Egypt, especially everything related to the cultural industries and processes, whether literary or music or film. Inside countries, culture is considered a service provided to society and we must work to preserve this status. But between countries, its circulation must overcome various difficulties to expand its reach. Culture is a kind of refined product that all countries can share. This concept of culture has always remained limited. China and Egypt have a remarkable cultural diversity. Both countries have the possibility to develop the emerging culture field. An agreement has already been signed between China and the Arab League, under which 25 books are translated to and from both Arabic and Chinese. We work in both countries to strengthen this work.

AH: Is it a cultural cooperation coupled with political vision? Will we see such cooperation with other countries in the region, such as Iran?

CS: It would be great if the cultural exchange is consistent with our political vision. This does not mean that culture is the quiet strength that could achieve many goals that are in the interest of the country. I should note that no restrictions should be imposed on cultural relations between countries. Regarding Iran, great writers and novelists have been translated into Arabic and there are sections in Egyptian universities that specialise in the Persian language. I aspire that our cultural activities worldwide would become effective. This would be in the interest of all countries. The world must understand that culture addresses people's spirits.

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