Impostures

Impostures

534 Pages

May 2020

ISBN: 9781479800841

$29.95

Hardcover

Authors

Al-Ḥarīrī (d. 516/1122) was a poet, scholar, and government official from Basra, Iraq. He is celebrated for his virtuosity in producing rhymed prose narratives, the Maqāmāt.

Michael Cooperson is Professor of Arabic in the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures at UCLA. His translations include The Life of Ibn Ḥanbal by Ibn al-Jawzī for the Library of Arabic Literature, and The Author and His Doubles by the eminent Moroccan literary critic Abdelfattah Kilito.

Abdelfattah Kilito is the author of several acclaimed studies of Arabic literature, including Arabs and the Art of Storytelling and a study of the Maqāmāt genre. He is the recipient of the Great Moroccan Award, the Al Owais Award for Criticism and Literature Studies, and a Prix from the Académie Française.

Fifty rogue’s tales translated fifty ways

An itinerant con man. A gullible eyewitness narrator. Voices spanning continents and centuries. These elements come together in Impostures, a groundbreaking new translation of a celebrated work of Arabic literature.

Impostures follows the roguish Abū Zayd al-Sarūjī in his adventures around the medieval Middle East—we encounter him impersonating a preacher, pretending to be blind, and lying to a judge. In every escapade he shows himself to be a brilliant and persuasive wordsmith, composing poetry, palindromes, and riddles on the spot. Award-winning translator Michael Cooperson transforms Arabic wordplay into English wordplay of his own, using fifty different registers of English, from the distinctive literary styles of authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer, Mark Twain, and Virginia Woolf, to global varieties of English including Cockney rhyming slang, Nigerian English, and Singaporean English.

Featuring picaresque adventures and linguistic acrobatics, Impostures brings the spirit of this masterpiece of Arabic literature into English in a dazzling display of translation.

Reviews

  • "One might describe al-Hariri's 12th-century Arabic classic as 'Melville's Confidence Man meets Queneau's Exercices de style,' but in this remarkable Oulipean carnival of a translation by Michael Cooperson, there are so many other voices—and languages: Singlish, Spanglish, Shakespeare, middle management-speak, Harlem jive, the rogue's lexicon, Naijá... Impostures is a wild romp through languages and literatures, places and times, that bears out and celebrates Borges's dictum: 'Erudition is the modern form of the fantastic.'"

    Esther Allen, translator of Zama, winner of the 2017 National Translation Award