AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies, Volume 4, Number2. May  2020                                  Pp.129 -142

Qur’anic Allusions in Naguib Mahfouz’s Midaq Alley: Comparing Two Arabic-English Translations

Language Center, Batterjee Medical College
Jeddah, Saudi Arabia


The Holy Quran is a crucial text in the Arabic culture, and hence the Arabic literature uses it extensively. As a hypertext, the Quran transcends its function in the Arabic culture, and Qur’anic verses and phrases serve in literary works as pieces of advice and expressions of wisdom. This paper aims to compare the two English translations of Naguib Mahfouz’s Midaq Alley (1947), by Trevor Le Gassick (1966), and Humphery Davies (2011). The paper examines the rendition of allusions to Quran and explores the strategies deployed by the translators. The language used in the source text reflects the culture in which it is born and determines the ideologies of its users. Before Mahfouz won the Noble Prize in 1988, the Westerners were prejudiced “against Arabs and Islam,” and they considered Arabic literature as embargoed (Said, September 17, 1999). The paper hypothesizes that the purpose of the two translations of Midaq Alley is to transfer the Egyptian culture to the target reader (TR). The underpinning approach is skopos theory, whose principles are: skopos, coherence, and loyalty (Nord, 2018).  The paper queries how loyal each translator is to the ST and ST author to achieve functional adequacy. One finding shows that Le Gassick renders the Quranic allusions literally ignoring the SC; however, Davies either uses cultural equivalents or resorts to paraphrasing, reducing the image to its sense. Second, the new translation of Davies transfers the Qur’anic culture-specific images feasibly. Finally, not recognizing the pictures and their functions in the ST affects their interpretations negatively.

Cite as:

Aldeeb, N.R. (2020). Qur’anic Allusions in Naguib Mahfouz’s Midaq Alley: Comparing Two Arabic-English Translations.  Arab World English Journal for Translation & Literary Studies 4 (2) 129 -142.


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Najlaa Aldeeb, a lecturer at Batterjee Medical College, has twenty years of experience in teaching ESL. She has an MTS in Translation Studies and an MA in English Language and Literature. Ms. Aldeeb is a DELTA holder whose research interest areas include literary translation, feminist literary criticism, and college writing. She has participated in national and international conferences including the 21st International Conference on Learning, New York, USA. ID ORCid: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6404-2741X