Friday, March 23, 2007

The Translator - A Book Review by Wendy


'It's a lonely thing,' he said, 'you can't avoid it.'
'What?'
'The spiritual path. Everyone is on his own in this.'
-From The Translator, page 202-

Sammar, a Sudanese widow who has left her child in the care of her aunt and moved to Scotland to become an Arabic translator, narrates this poetic novel of love and faith.

I have read some critical reviews of this book which condemn it as "only a love story." The Translator is, in fact, a love story - but it is also much more. Aboulela is a controlled, meditative writer who weaves a deeper meaning into her novel. The gapping maw between cultures and religions are exposed in this simple story with a subtleness I appreciated. The author explores grief, and moving on, and clinging to one's faith - all anchored in an exquisite atmosphere of place.

Aboulela has a finely tuned sense of what it means to love. In one scene, Sammar is cooking soup for Rae, a man who Sammar loves and who has been ill. In this uncomplicated act, Aboulela reveals something about Sammar's character which anyone who has loved another can relate to.

She made soup for him. She cut up courgettes, celery and onion. Her feelings were in the soup. The froth that rose to the surface of the water when she boiled the chicken, the softened, shapeless tomatoes. Pasta shaped into the smallest stars. Spice that she had to search for, the name unknown in English, not in any of the Arabic-English dictionaries that she had. -From The Translator, page 97-

The Translator transports the reader to another culture, offering glimpses into what it means to have faith and how difficult it is to abide by one's beliefs. It is not a complicated novel; but it left me contemplating the larger issues of life.

Recommended.

*Orginal post of this review located here.

4 comments:

Loose Baggy Monster said...

I have to stop reading reviews or I'll be forever changing my original list of books to try! Then again, I'm not making much headway on that list to begin with so maybe a little change-up would do me good. Time to add another book to the pile!

Laura said...

Great review, this one is on my NYT challenge list and I'm looking forward to reading it. Also looking forward to hearing what you think of Black Swan Green, as I read it last year and really enjoyed it.

3M said...

I'm glad you liked it, Wendy. This is one I plan on reading as well.

Wendy said...

I found this to be a pretty quick, easy read - for those who are looking to knock one off their list without much effort!

Kookie- I read your comment on my blog :) Thanks! This book is already out in trade paperback!