The Translator, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


Sammar is a young Sudanese widow, working as an Arabic translator at a British university.

Following the sudden death of her husband, and estranged from her young son, she drifts, grieving and isolated.

Life takes a positive turn when she finds herself falling in love with Rae, a Scottish academic.

To Sammar, he seems to come from another world and another culture, yet they are drawn to each other. "The Translator" is a story about love, both human and divine.

Leila Aboulela's first novel, first published in 1999, was longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction and the IMPAC Dublin Award, and was shortlisted for the Saltire Prize.

It has subsequently appeared in editions worldwide.


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A lot of the reviews on the cover of this book refer to the “restraint” with which it is written, and I would have to say that restraint was the main impression it left me with. It was like watching TV through a veil. The central idea was really interesting – the relationship between a Muslim woman and her boss, a Scottish academic who is an expert on Islam but not a convert. To be honest, I couldn’t hear enough about this particular conundrum, but there seemed a determination not to overcook it, to step back and consider other matters. Heck, why not leave the country altogether.Undeniably, the writing was elegant, and I liked the way the author helped us to see the UK through foreign eyes. There was poetry in every line, and somehow with only a scraping of backstory, it managed to paint a rounded picture of the characters’ lives. On the other hand, I really wanted a clearer understanding of what led to the story’s ultimate resolution. It was a bit like going to one of those really posh restaurants where everything is cooked to perfection but there is very little of it.

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