THE TRANSLATOR by Leila Aboulela, Book Review

The Translator by Leila AboulelaThe Translator Book Synopsis

Juxtaposing the contrasting landscapes and culture of Khartoum and Aberdeen, Leila Aboulela paints and intimate portrait of a young woman torn between conflicting pressures, beliefs, and desires.

Sammar is a young Sudanese widow working as a translator in a British University. Rae is a Scottish lecturer on postcolonial politics. As Sammar slowly recovers from her husband’s death, she finds her friendship with the enlightened and sensitive older man turning to love. But she cannot turn her back on her home, her culture, or her faith.

Genre: Literature, Romance, Drama

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The Translator by Leila Aboulela is a small but powerful novel. With only a limited cast and contained scope, it is predominantly a reflective piece. An exploration of the influence both our faith and experiences have on our life choices – of the rules we impose upon ourselves and our rational for doing so.

She didn’t care, didn’t mind. Four years ill in a hospital she had made for herself. Ill, diseased with passivity, time in which she sat doing nothing. The whirlpool of grief sucking time. Hours flitting away like minutes. Days in which the only thing she could rouse herself to do was pray the five prayers. They were the only challenge, the last touch with normality, without them she would have fallen, lost awareness of the shift of day into night.

Although largely introspective, a very compelling and mature romantic storyline emerges.

Leila Aboulela’s The Translator is a quiet book that has the gravity of a whisper in a silent crowd.

Aboulela’s prose is peppered with poignant observations and life’s lessons, no matter your faith.

It took him years to learn the value of silence, the power of carefully chosen words.

Leila Aboulela has important things to say and her artful but measured prose is a powerful voice.

This is a touching story about convictions, beliefs and cultural difference. Key messages – we alone control our happiness and only those rules we impose upon ourselves can truly constrain us.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5  – Overall  4.25

Get your copy of The Translator from:

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About the Author, Leila Aboulela

Leila Aboulela was born in Egypt but grew up in Sudan. She is an author and playwright.  The Translator was nominated for the Orange Prize and was chosen as a Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times in 2006. Check out Leila Aboulela’s official website.

More reviews of The Translator

“For both characters, love means having someone to tell their stories to, without fear. It means effacing the boundaries of language, of nation, of religion — all no more than “data that fills forms.” In other words, love translates. It can be that simple, Aboulela suggests. And by the end of this novel, she almost has you believing it.” – New York Times

“Aboulela’s style is concise and lyrical and her descriptions read like short poems.” – Erasing Clouds

“The Translator is beautifully written in a slow, literary style. It’s definitely character-driven and not heavy at all on plot or action, but a few things happen nonetheless.” – Boston Bibliophile

Some other titles by Leila Aboulela: Lyrics Alley , Minaret , Coloured Lights