Wednesday, 13 June 2018, 5.00 pm - 6.30 pm |
Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

Arabic Rewritings of Tolstoy's "Kreutzer Sonata"

Margaret Litvin
(Boston University / EUME Fellow 2017/18)

Chair: Susanne Frank
(Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

How have Russian literary works functioned in Arab/ic literary milieux? What ends have they served, what hungers have they fed? And to what extent has it mattered whether Russian literature was absorbed through the vehicle of Orthodox missionary education, Soviet policy, or Hebrew official culture? To help sharpen and begin answering this question, this talk analyzes three Arab appropriations of Tolstoy’s 1890 novella The Kreutzer Sonata by three Palestinian or Israeli-born public intellectuals of different periods: Salim Qubayn’s pioneering Arabic translation/adaptation of 1903 (and its ghostly Brazilian Arabic predecessor), Trotskyist Jabra Nicola’s Arabic translation of 1960, and Palestinian Israeli writer Sayed Kashua’s complex appropriation in his Hebrew-language novel Second Person Singular (2012). Tolstoy’s bizarre and disturbing novella, a pro-chastity diatribe that sparked a Europe-wide furor even before publication, would seem an unlikely focus for this repeated attention from Palestinian thinkers and writers. Seeing what they have made of it offers an unusual angle into how one society’s concerns have changed over the past century and how Russian literature has helped intellectuals verbalize (or even think through) those changing concerns.

Margaret Litvin is Associate Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at Boston University, USA. Her first book, Hamlet’s Arab Journey: Shakespeare’s Prince and Nasser’s Ghost (Princeton, 2011; published in Arabic translation by Soha Sebaie in 2017), examined the many reworkings of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the theatre and political rhetoric of postcolonial Egypt, Syria, and Iraq. She co-edited and partly translated a companion anthology of translations, Four Arab Hamlet Plays (New York: Martin E. Segal Theatre Center, 2016). More recently, Litvin has focused on reconstructing the tangled legacies of Arab writers’ experiences in Russia and the Soviet Union. Her articles, reviews, and artist interviews have appeared in Journal of Arabic Literature, Critical Survey, PAJ: A Journal of Performing Arts, Theatre Research International, PMLA, several Shakespeare journals, and the online venues Marginalia Review of Books, Words Without Borders, and n+1.
Born in Moscow, Litvin holds a PhD in Social Thought from the University of Chicago and a BA in Humanities from Yale. Her research has been awarded an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship (Yale University) and an ACLS Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship to work at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Studies in Uppsala, Sweden (2015-16). In summer 2016 and in the academic year 2017/18, Litvin is a EUME-CNMS Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt-Stiftung.