A Gold Standard for Translators

Hippocates translated from Syriac into Arabic by Honian Ibn Ishaq. This MS is a copy dated AD 1205.

Back from NYC. Two lovely days with friends & a pleasurable gig reading Picasso & Co. at MoMA. Had the pleasure of walking to New Directions with Jerry Rothenberg to get copies of his new book, just out, Tryptich — on which more later. Of course, as always happens, I had to miss another reading I would have loved to get to that evening: Rae Armantrout & Peter Gizzi at the Project. Hopefully someone will report on that event on the Poertics list or on a blog.

Back up here I fell to reading Al Watan, the (maybe best) Algerian newspaper in French, which on it cultural pages had a little essay on translation by Merzac Bagtache, telling again of the importance of translators in cultural transmission & innovation. Bagtache is especially admirative of the great (the immense, he says, rightly so) Hunayn Ibn Ishaq (809-877) who was the powerhouse of translators (but also worked as an ophtalmologist) in the Baghdad of the enlightened Abbasid dynasty. Hunayn Ibn Ishaq’s greatest achievement was the translation into Arabic of a wide range of major scientific and philosophical texts from Greek, Coptic and Syriac — among them core texts of Plato and Aristotle that were thus preserved for later European reappropriation. But what I had never heard until I read Bagtache’s piece was how Caliph Mamoud paid Hunayn Ibn Ishaq for his translations: he gave him the weight of the translated pages in gold! Ah, those were the days…

(Visited 46 times, 1 visits today)

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. François says:

    Un article vraiment fascinant. Merci beaucoup pour l’avoir souligné.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *