Putting the Arabic back into Arab drama

Putting the Arabic back into Arab drama
Comment: Arabic drama needs to embrace its roots and stop using translated literature.
2 min read
08 April, 2015
Drama as a literary genre is withering away [al-Araby]
Our memory of theatre has become a memory translated. The library of Arabic drama is now almost exclusively a library of translated literature. Even the oldest and most prestigious Arabic theatrical publication series features translated literature (The World of Theatre).

On the very extremes of the margins, drama as a literary genre is withering away, unpreserved by writers and publishers alike. Today, we barely come across any Arab publishers who publish plays, with the exceptions being few and far between. Arab playwrights, already a rare species, now seem to be
     The library of Arabic drama is now almost exclusively a library of translated literature.
 on the verge of extinction.

Even before playwrights and publishers had made the move, Arab theatre itself turned towards translated texts: often too much and too removed from our own culture. Of course, world theatre is essentially our theatre too, and human civilisation is one. However, that is not to say that the plays created in our language and region are not also a part of this civilisation.

It seems incomprehensible how infatuated the Beirutis were with Henrik Ibsen's plays, or the Jerusalemites were with those of Arthur Miller, when neither of these two even come close to approaching the theatre of Said Taqi al-Din (1904 – 1960). Perhaps the secret lies in funding, for a not inconsiderable portion of the plays published – not to mention produced – in the last two decades have been financed by embassies and overseas organisations, concerned with the preservation of their culture.

One potential solution may be to spread the rumour that the Syrian Social Nationalist Party has launched a generous funding programme to oversee the production of Taqi al-Din’s plays, with the smallest of grants at a mere 100,000 dollars. Yes, I know, no one could possibly believe that. In that case, we might as well tell everyone that the Swedes discovered Taqi al-Din's Scandinavian roots and decided to grant him citizenship. Now there is no excuse for not reading his work!

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.