When ‘trauma’ is defined as ‘out of time’ or ‘other’ (LaCapra, 2001) to a perceived norm, it invisibly limits the scope of the term to exclude contexts where atrocious violence is not only myriad but every-day. A close reading of two distinctly different types of trauma narratives written in Arabic, Under the Midmorning Sun (2002) by Ibrahim Nasrallah and B as in Beirut (1997, trans. 2008) by Iman Humaydan disrupts two pillars of trauma theory. First: that the time of trauma is in some way ‘other’ to the everyday, and second: that that this time is ‘unspeakable’ (Wittgenstein, 1922/2015) except through the development of techniques like ‘eloquent silence’ (Ephratt, 2008; Schmitz, 1994). In Nasrallah’s extraordinary rendering of the everyday violence that precipitated and comprised the Second Intifada in Palestine and Humaydan’s accounts of personal and domestic violence that unfold simultaneous to Lebanon’s Civil War violence is narrated in all its ineloquence. What does this mean for our use of terms embedded in critical theory? How might we go about ‘translating’ these words and recognizing the contexts that they emerge from, in order to ask the right questions?
Dr Nora Parr is Postdoctoral Researcher for the Open World Research Initiative’s project on Creative Multilingualism whose work explores the nexus of literature, theory, and translation. Her forthcoming monograph titled Nation Constellation uses Palestinian literature—in particular the works of Ibrahim Nasrallah and his ‘Palestine Comedies’ and ‘Balconies’ series—to offer an alternative model for the imagined national community.