“Standing before you, world” nation, translation and world literature in postcolonial Syria

Daniel Behar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This article examines translation activity in modern Syria and its intersections with original works as a middle ground between world literature and postcolonial studies. It argues for a return to the multiplicity residing within a postcolonial national setting as a way of understanding poetic production in interaction with foreign poetries. Syrian translating as practiced in the state-endorsed literary periodical Al-Adab Al-Ajanbiyya (Foreign Literatures) is studied as a site of tension between a political rhetoric maintained by a growingly invasive state and the narrowing field of individual enterprise. How would world literature figure from the perspective of a state-backed, professedly Arab-socialist culture? How would this construction then be contested by agents struggling to carve out spaces for individual expression? What role does translation play in this struggle? The parameters of postcolonial experience and representation are themselves fought over in an unequal playing field between state power and beleaguered authors on the literary margins. Translations originating in politicized agendas then become constitutive of non-ideological engagements with world literature sanctioning deviations from state hegemony and promoting civilian agendas.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)325-353
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of World Literature
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2020


  • Glocalism
  • Nationalism
  • Poetry
  • Soviet world literature
  • Syria
  • Translation


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