Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language
by Abdelfattah Kilito
It has been said that the difference between a language and a dialect is that a language is a dialect with an army. Both the act of translation and bilingualism are steeped in a tension between surrender and conquest, yielding conscious and unconscious effects on language. First published in Arabic in 2002, Abdelfattah Kilito’s Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language explores the tension between dynamics of literary influence and canon formation within the Arabic literary tradition. As one of the Arab world’s most original and provocative literary critics, Kilito challenges the reader to reexamine contemporary notions of translation, bilingualism, postcoloniality, and the discipline of comparative literature. Waïl S. Hassan’s superb translation makes Thou Shalt Not Speak My Language available to an English-speaking audience for the first time, capturing the charm and elegance of the original in a chaste and seemingly effortless style.