Amani Lazar is a literary translator, writer and blogger and came straight from the warzone in Homs in Syria to the home of Hamlet, the charming Danish City of Helsingør, with the ICORN programme in January 2017.
The book by Karen Blixen Babette’s Feast is the story about a French chef who as a refugee ends up in a small remote village in the north of Norway, cooking for the people of an small traditional pietist society. Lazar says that she had not heard a lot about Karen Blixen before she arrived in Helsingør as Danish literature is seldom translated into Arabic. It was a Syrian friend of hers that introduced her to Blixen’s Seven Gothic Tales but decided to first translate Babette’s Feast.
- I am so pleased that I translated Babette's Feast; which message it carries I believe is good for all times and places. Sometimes, because of different circumstances, we may lose our home country when we have to leave when our life is at risk.
The experience of living in a completely different environment allows us to investigate ourselves, and explore what talents we have, through these talents, we can create a homeland for us everywhere, as with Babette, when she sacrificed everything for her art and through that art, re-created her country.
It is challenging us to open our eyes to the simple joys in life, the joy that does not focus on selfish needs, but on the joy of others that may not always be in accord with our “rules".
I would like to translate more of Karen Blixen's works, perhaps in the future literary works written in Danish also.
Over the course of her career, Lazar has translated a large number of short stories, poems, articles and books from English into Arabic. She is known to be one of the few female Arabic translators who dare to translate texts by contemporary writers who are not known to the wider Arabic readership.
Lazar’s translations of the work of Charles Bukowski, John Fante, W.G.Sebald, Kim Echlin, Jojo Moyes, and many others, have been well received by readers, fellow translators, as well as critics.
Dorthe Lykkegaard, who is the local coordinator of the ICORN programme, says: It is such a pleasure that Lazar has chosen to translate a piece of classic Danish literature while living here. It is great to know that Arabic readers, both here in Denmark and in Arabic speaking countries, now have the opportunity to read Babette’s Feast by Karen Blixen.”
The exhibition was opened by mayor of Helsingør Henrik Møller on 4 October at Helsingør public Library Kulturværftet, where Amani Lazar and Suzanne Schytt read excerpts from the book in Danish and Arabic respectively. The exhibition is curated by Majken Jørgensen, who is Head of Spatial Design & Exhibitions at the library.
Helsingør City of Refuge
Helsingør joined ICORN in February 2016 and is hosting Amani Lazar as their first ICORN writer in residence, for two years from 2017-2019. Elsinore City of Refuge is a collaboration between the Municipality of Elsinore, the Elsinore City Libraries and the International People’s College (Den Internationale Højskole), where Amani Lazar stays and works during her residency.