Language, Power and Democracy in Othello, Translated into Egyptian Dialect by Moustapha Safouan: a Realistic, Utopian or Dystopian Challenge?
Can the Egyptian dialect be a poetic language? Should it be taught at school? Can it convey literary serious/tragic contents? Moustapha Safouan thinks so, and he also thinks that such a linguistic revolution is necessary in Egypt to boost a democratic process to deprive the dictators of the fake legitimacy they gain from using Modern Standard Arabic instead of the vernacular linguistic variety. His translation of Shakespeare’s Othello into Egyptian dialect, in 1998, is his way to put words into action. This paper presents Safouan’s translation, a provocation and a successful challenge, and the debate it aroused. Language, writing devices, musicality of the translation and the spontaneous reaction of Egyptian native speakers are investigated to demonstrate that there are quite a few points in which Safouan succeeds in conveying sublime intellectual/aesthetic pleasure. Safouan’s Othello shows that the Egyptian dialect can be a poetic language and therefore it might one day turn into a weapon in the hands of the people against the powerful ruling élites, as Safouan wishes.