Semiotic Signs In Ghassan Kanafani's " 'A'id ila Hayfa" | October 2017 | Translation Journal

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Semiotic Signs In Ghassan Kanafani's " 'A'id ila Hayfa"

Abstract  :

   The following research is an analysis of the semiotic signs in Ghassan Kanafani's novela " 'A'id ila Hayfa" and how they are treated when they are translated into English by Barbara Harlow and Karen E. Rilery. The research concludes that the translators tend to use  foreignerization or domestication when they translate these signs. So the translators sometimes manage to achieve the writer's intended meaning, but they don't transfer the  source text culture to the target culture accurately because of the usage of colloquial language by Ghassan Knafani. 

Introduction :

 "Returning to Haifa" is written by the famous great late Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani in 1969 concerns the impact of Palestinians who had fled during the 1948 war with Israel returning in 1967 (when the borders between what was formerly the Jordanian West Bank and Israel were reopened). Kanafani usesmiscellaneous style such as flash back, counter argument and second person plural "you" to address the Palestinian and Israeli community. In the novella, a Palestinian couple returns to Haifa in 1967 to see their former house again and to discover what becomes of their five – month – old baby Khaldun whom  his Palestinian mother Safiyya left behind when she and her husband Said S. fled the chaos  and danger caused by Britain's sudden evacuation of its Mandate for Palestine in 1948 and Zionism bands massacres against Palestinian citizens. (Sandra Singer)

  Ghassan Kanafani  is able to match between two basic things in building the story: the explicit and the implicit meaning, and he depends on "the sign" to achieve the significations and effects that he wants. "Aid ila Haifa" describes a politics of reclamation and its figures in a receptive field where confrontational politics against Zionism is understood.   (Ghassan Kanafani'sComplete Works 1994 )

 "Riley and Harlow" are the translators for this novella state" it is a text that appeals not to the Palestinian and larger Arab community, but also interests a more diverse university – educated community, including many (western) Jews. Though Kanafani saw his work as "resistance writing."   Several interrelated issues stem from Kanafani's powerful transcultural circulation of the trauma of war and dispossession vividly describe through the characters' memory. Four characters encounter each other and the past.

   Viewing literature as a social construction emphasizes its role as an instrument conveying ideology, and potentially challenging it. Accordingly, "Returning to Haifa" describes the contours of Palestinian history between 1948 and 1967 , and promotes a discursive model for Palestinian resistance, while achieving the effects of this strategy and its implications.

 Through its narrative instancing of discussion across geopolitical borders, it has significance for cosmopolitan readership invested in contemporary Middle Eastern issues. While the work ends with appeals to violence, its characters' aspersions are toward inevitable dialogue. 

  Kanafani's "Returning to Haifa" offers a model for face –to–face negotiation of differences, rather than division envisaged by a two–state Palestinian–Israeli solution.

( Sandra Singer )

Literature review :

   Karen E. Riley said, " I have translated the original Arabic as literally as possible for reasons such as the ambiguity that is created when memory and reality intermingle and the implicit images that are marked by the relationship between time and space. But certain devices such as the use of contractions, particularly in dialogue, were chosen not so much because Kanafani uses the colloquial as his writing tool" ( Sandra Singer ).

   The more a translator is aware of complexities of differences between cultures, the better a translator will be. Some translators tend to move from translation as a text to translation as culture and politics is what they call it a "Cultural Turn" in translation as it is used in Karen's and Barbara's translation.

  Newmark states the relevance of componential analysis in translation as a flexible but orderly method of bridging the numerous lexical gaps, both linguistic and cultural, between one language and another. She also introduces strategies  for dealing with cultural gap such as naturalization, Neutralization, descriptive and functional equivalent, cultural equivalent

and compensation.    Source language word may express a concept, which is totally unknown in the target culture. It can be abstract or concrete. It maybe a religious belief, a social custom or even a type of food. Mona Baker argues in her book "In other words" about the common non-equivalents to which a translator come across while translating from SL into TL, while both languages have their distinguished specific culture, some of these are: culture specific concepts, the SL word which is semantically complex, the distinction in meaning between the two languages, the difference in form.

  Venuti discusses invisibility hand in hand with types of translating strategies:

domestication and foreignization. Domestication involves reduction of the foreign text to the target language cultural values. Whereas, foreignization is choosing a foreign text and developing a translation method along lines which excludes by dominant cultural values in target language (Venuti 1995).

  Translation deals with signs and attempts to preserve semiotic, as well as other pragmatic and communicative properties which signs display. The process of inter-semiotic transfer is not without constraints. Cultural codes are conceptual systemswhich regulate the process whereby the denotative meaning of an element in a text acquire an extra connotative meaning. Texts are the basic units for semiotic analysis. Texts also impose their own

constrains on the translator. Semiotic translation involves the translator in a number of important procedures such as identification, information, explication through using synonym, expansion and paraphrase and transformation.

  In this research, various matters of what I have just mentioned will be found, since the novella is mainly based on signs that affect each other to achieve the source text's and the author's intended meaning.

Methodology :

   After reading both the Arabic and the English texts of Ghassan Kanafani's novella " 'A'id ila Hayfa", I decide to study the significance of the semiotic signs in it and their relation with translation . I will also find out whether these signs maintain the authors' intention after translation or they serve the target reader only. Moreover, I am going to check domestication and foreignization which the translators use in translating these signs.

  First of all, I want to begin with the genuine of the novella which is embodied in its title. The semiotic sign is in the word "Returning to Haifa" which is a Palestinian particularity and represents any Palestinian refugee who was expelled on the hands of the Jews to have the "right of return" to his own home in Haifa and to Palestine in general. Therefore, I think the translator here should keep the title as it is, " Aid ila Hayfa" to maintain this specialty and make the readers realize that this novella concerns Palestinians and just Palestinians. 

   Another important thing in this novella is the naming of the children or characters is significant. Said's and Safiyya's son who is left during the war when he is five months old and his name is "Khaldun". However. This lost boy grow up with Jews family to become "Dov" who becomes a soldier in the Israeli army. This makes Saed and his wife Safiyya astonished when he doesn't know that they are his parents.  I think this is true as it is in

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ ‏"كل مولود يولد على الفطرة فأبواه يهودانه أو ينصرانه أو  يمجسانه كمثل البهيمة تنتج البهيمة هل ترى فيها ‏ ‏جدعاء. ‏"              

    The other name which has significance is ' Badr'. This child is named after 'Badr' brother of Faris al-lubda's who is killed before. We notice that the naming of the characters play a crucial role in revealing the contradiction and tension between the past and the future. It is clear when Faris al-Lubda sees the photograph of the man and his wife Lamia and their sons Saad, Badr and Faris which marks significant historical moments. Faris decides to rent the house which is his own before 1948, but an Arab resident rents it from the government.

  The setting of the novella is a sign that shows both an Israeli mother " Mariam" and the  Palestinian mother " Safiyya" meeting in the living room of the house and discussing face to face ,and not on the battlefield, their point of view with each other about the possession of the house which is a sign for the large " Homeland " which is ( Palestine).

  The Jewish woman who is called " Mariam" has also a great significance especially for Western readers as it is mentioned in Exodus story, and has a moral role when she protected Moses as his faithful sister.

   "Khalid" is another sign in the novella who is "Khaldun's" brother and joins the fidayeen in his parents absence. Kanafani makes of Khalid and Dov (Khaldun) a sign and allusion to Cain and Abel in which Khalid might possibly kill his brother Dov who is a soldier in Israeli Forces. That is also raised for Western readers through this biblical allusion for the sake of justice wanting which requires resolution.

   As for the word "fidayeen", the translators use foreignization strategy in translating this word and keep it as it is because it has special meaning for the Palestinians and it has no exact equivalence in English. That is skilful way of translation which makes the foreign readers aware of such words and know exactly what it means and signifies (Fada'i) is a fighter willing to sacrifice his life for his cause, and it is applied especially to Palestinian freedom-fighters, who are ready to sacrifice their lives in armed struggle for the cause of regaining their homeland.

  Kanafani uses the house equipments to which Said returns as signs to represent Palestine's traditions and habits which show reality and originality such as the bell, the copper lock, خربشات اقلام الرصاص على الحائط)) which the translators fail to translate when they translate it "the bullet holes in the wall" Which should be translated " pencils' graffiti on the wall", the electricity box, the fourth step broken in its center , and unyielding iron grillwork of the "masatib" the translators here use  foreignization in translating the word ( مصاطب) which is plural of "mastaba" that refers to the floor of the house built of concrete. After that he talks about the occupation which has changed everything: the bell, the name,…..

 Other signs that Kanafani includes to show the change that the Jews have made in Palestine for twenty years when he describes the number of seats, the colour of the table which has faded, the glass vase which is replaced by a wooden one, the seven peacock feathers which become five, and most importantly the sugar- colored yarn curtains which are made by Safiyya are replaced by curtains with long blue threads running through them and these represent the flag of Israel.

  More than that the story near Bethlehem's Church of the two men from Haganah who are wiping their palms on the sides of their "Khaki" a colloquial word for "احمر غامق"shirts (this word is translated as Kanafani writes it in his novella and I think it is a sign of linguistic change in which the Arabs in Haifa and other 1948 areas speak Hebrew and the translators use foreignization to translate it) after throwing a killed Arab child onto the truck. This story has two interpretations: first it is happened near Bethlehem Church, so it may refer to Jesus and how the Jews behave towards the innocent people and violating humanitarian aspects. Secondly, Mariam tells a story about her brother when German soldiers shoot him down, and this shows that Jews are victims and now they become victimizers.

  On the other hand, the translators use domestication for some of the colloquial words that Kanafani includes in his novella. The word " dripping " for " يتفصد", "had occurred" for شجرت""work miracles" for " تجترج المعجزات"", "Is this your dull, worn out weapon?" for " اهذا هوسلاحك التافه المفلول", " full of cheating" for " مترعة بالاخاديع"",helter-skelter" for     "يندفع دونما اتجاه" .     

    Kanafani uses the word  "سبت " to refer to Jewish holiday, but they translate it "true Jewish Sabbath" by using domestication and that it indicates that the Jews begin to practice their religious and cultural traditions normally after occupying Palsetine.

   Kanafani uses as an intertextuality "man is  a cause" which is taken by Muhammad Siddiq as the title of his book examining the development of political consciousness in Ghassan Kanafani's fiction. Barbara Harlow and Karen E. Riley say. The word " قضية" is a sign and can be rendered as 'cause,' 'problem', or ' case'. He considers man a cause, not flesh or blood inherits generation after generation, whoever he is. "In the Novella Kanafani creates a long dialogue and counter argument between Said and his supposed son Khaldun (Dov), and shows this as unjust cause that must be solved. His son Khalid who represents resistance and fidayeen is also another cause."

  In another area Kanfani manages to create a sign from Badr's picture which is taken from its place by his brother Fares and returns it back again. The picture reminds him of his brave brother who is killed for freedom and Palestine, and the man who rents the house from the government, because of this picture, comes from Jaffa after his house is demolished. He tells Fares that he names his son Badr after his brother, and he also feels that there is a terrible emptiness  after taking the picture. The man also says "if they want to reclaim the picture, they will have to reclaim the house, Jaffa, us, …and it represents your bridge for us and our bridge for you."  This is a clear indication from Kanafani of the unity of the fate of Palestinians in every place and they bear the same dilemma.

   At the end of the novella, Kanafani uses Khalid and Dov as great signs that contrast between the truth and the false, the real and image, the honor and disgrace, surrender and courage. He praises Khalid and considers him a symbol for freedom who chooses to fight to achieve it and find the true Palestine homeland for the future, not like Said and his wife Safiyya the past only.

  Some colloquial words aren't translated correctly like " المتاريس "to "machine guns" which should be "barricades", " مبحوح" to "injured voice' which should be "hoarse voice", " "تفلالزهور to " broken flowers" which should be "dregs flowers" and" had occurred" for " شجرت" to be "infused".

 There is also a violation for metaphor such as " فوق الزحام المتدفق امام مياه الميناء الباكية" is translated "above the surging throng at the port", "قشرة رقيقة تخفي لهبا كامنا" to be " thin shell covering a smoldering flame." , "كانت دهشتها اتخذت شكل الانهيار المهيض الجناح" to be" whose shock has taken the form of helpless collapse." The translators as we notice delete some words from the metaphor because he doesn't find an equivalence for them in the TL, so he compensates them in other places in the novella and this indicates cultural gap.

 The proposed translation for these sentences is "above the surging throng in front of the water port weeping", " Thin crust hides flames latent", " Her amazement took the shape of a broken wing collapse ".

  Conclusion :

   "A'id ila Haifa" is the novella for which Kanafani has become famous addresses different nations: Palestinians, Israeli, westerns, lovers of freedom, human rights and world institutions to think about Palestinian issue as a man cause that needs solving. Kanafani uses important signs to expose the cause in various levels from using the house and its household and its equipments and what changes have happened in it during the twenty years of occupation, which represents Palestine as a homeland for Palestinians. He also uses it as a place of meeting for negotiation between Palestinians and Israeli.

  In translation, the translators translate the novel as literally as possible to maintain the images that Kanafani uses, but certain devices such as using contractions in the dialogue affect translation because he uses the colloquial. In other areas the translators either use foreignerization or domestication, and in others they use explication, transformation and compensation to render the image and metaphor.

    Questions for discussion !

1-      Returning to Haifa was adapted by Boaz Gaon to be played by Israeli and Arab actors in Jaffa, and then at Cameri's theatre in Tel Aviv. It was directed by Sinai Peter. Another adaptation in Beirut, Lebanon written and directed by Beirut – Based artist Lina Abyad.

A-In what ways was the adaptation different than the original source material? In 

   what was it  similar?

B-In what ways might each of these story - tellers ( Gaon and Abyad) have

    approached the material differently?

2-      Was " 'A'id ila Haifa " written to serve a temporary condition or to give a future outlook for the Palestinian issue?

3-      What strategy did  Ghassan Kanafani adopt through his novel to liberate Palestine :

peace- making through negotiation  or resistance and struggle?

4-      Do the translators achieve the source text producer's intention and the target text reader's aim.

References :

Baker, M. (1992). In other words. A coursebook on translation. London and  

    New York:      Routledge.

Hatim, B & Muday, J. (2004). Translation. An advanced resource book.      

   London and  Newyork: Routledge.

Kanafani, Ghassan. Palestinian's children : Returning to Haifa and other 

     stories / Ghassan  Kanafani; translated by  Barbara Harlow and Karen E.


Kanafani, Ghassan: Complete works, novels, the first volume, the fourth

     edition. Arabic Institution for Publishing.

Kanafani, Ghassan. Palestinian's children : Returning to Haifa and other

     stories / Ghassan  Kanafani; translated by  Barbara Harlow and Karen E.


Kanafani, Ghassan: Complete works, novels, the first volume, the fourth  

      edition. Arabic    Institution for Publishing.

Newmark, P. (1981). Approaches to translation. Pergamon press. Oxford and 

     New York.

  -   -    -   (1988). A textbook of translation. Prentice Hall. New York and London.

  Return to Haifa Study Guide [PDF]

 Sandra Singer - Returning toHaifa as Political Discourse and[PDF]

Venuti, L. (1998). The sacndals of translation. Towards an ethics of difference

     London and  New York. Routledge. 

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