Fiction and Colonial Identities: Arsène Lupin in Arabic

coverMiddle Eastern Literatures
Volume 13Issue 2, 2010, pages 191-210
Special Issue:   Arabic Literature in Egypt at the Beginning of the 20th Century in Search of New Aesthetics: Al-Muwaylihi and Contemporaries

DOI:  10.1080/1475262X.2010.487317

Samah Selim

Along with Ponson du Terrail’s Rocambole and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, Maurice Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin is one of the most famous popular fiction figures in the 20th century Egyptian literary imaginary. The first Arabic translation of Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Cambrioleur (1907) by essayist and translator ‘Abd al-Qādir Hamza was published in the Egyptian fiction serial The People’s Entertainments (Musāmarāt al-sha‘b, 1904-1911) in 1910. This article explores the social and literary contexts in which Hamza’s translation was produced, with emphasis on the birth of the individual as a legal and rhetorical construct in colonial Egypt. The article then turns to the figure of the ‘hero’ in a medieval Arab literary tradition in flux at the end of the 19th century as a way of situating the translation within shifting contemporary genre practices. The article concludes with a reflection on worldly translation as a complex motor of renewal in local generic systems.