Professor Translates Novel about Iran-Iraq War

In the United States, translations make up only a small percentage of books published each year, and very few of them are from the Middle East. But translators have been working steadily over the years to alter this picture.

Among them is UT Professor of Persian and Comparative Literature Mohammad Ghanoonparvar, translator of “Fortune Told in Blood,” a novel about the Iran-Iraq War by Iranian author David Ghaffarzadegan.

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies, in partnership with University of Texas Press, published the translation last year.

Though Ghanoonparvar has translated numerous novels, short story collections and plays during his 30 years of experience, he finds the process of translation is always fraught with tough decisions.

There are several schools of thought about the best way to translate, the scholar says.

Professor Ghanoonparvar

Professor Ghanoonparvar

Some argue a translation should reflect the original language as literally as possible, while others believe it should read as though it had originally been written in the target language. Ghanoonparvar has found that striking a happy medium between these two extremes has served his projects well.

While translation is no easy feat, finding a publisher presents an even greater challenge. However, Ghanoonparvar has seen improvement in recent years and says continuing political focus on the Middle East has spurred interest in literature from the region.

The Center for Middle Eastern Studies at The University of Texas at Austin has published literature in translation from the Middle East for more than 20 years. Find more books from the series at

This post was adapted from the story “The Art of Translation” by Wendy Moore, which appeared in the Center for Middle Eastern Studies’ 2008-09 Newsletter. Moore is the editor of the Middle Eastern Studies publication series.