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The Translator

3.56  ·  Rating details ·  1,773 ratings  ·  280 reviews
American readers were introduced to the award-winning Sudanese author Leila Aboulela with Minaret, a delicate tale of a privileged young African Muslim woman adjusting to her new life as a maid in London. Now, for the first time in North America, we step back to her extraordinarily assured debut about a widowed Muslim mother living in Aberdeen who falls in love with a Scot ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 14th 2006 by Grove Press, Black Cat (first published September 8th 1999)
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Average rating 3.56  · 
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 ·  1,773 ratings  ·  280 reviews

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Jul 12, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Warning to readers! This edition includes an incredibly annoying introduction by Anne Donovan which praises Aboulela's text in rather general terms and summarises the plot, as if you want the whole thing spoiled for you before beginning! It isn't a gripping thriller full of twists, granted, but that doesn't mean I don't want to be surprised by what the author hasn't chosen to reveal in advance. This would have made a perfectly inoffensive and even pleasant afterword, if one were needed, but I wa ...more
Connie G
Feb 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
Sammar, a young Muslim woman from Khartoum, has been overwhelmed with grief since her husband's death. She works as an Arabic translator at a university in Aberdeen, Scotland while her son stays with her aunt in Khartoum. Sammar and Rae, a kind secular Middle Eastern Studies professor, form a close friendship which deepens into love. Sammar has a very strong faith that defines her as a person. But Rae comes from a different religious and cultural background.

Author Leila Aboulela writes using spa
Feb 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
Every year I notice some theme sneak into my reading. This year, it's love. I'd rather focus on love to help me forget the hate in the world. I read somewhere that Melinda Gates chooses a word each year for her resolution of sorts, so there it is, my reading resolution. The love story drew me to this novel but the 'mood' kept me enthralled. This is Leila Aboulela's first novel and atmospherically, it is distinct.

She thought that it was not true what people said, that time passed quickly when
Nov 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This is undoubtedly one of the best books I've had the opportunity to read. The characters make your heart soar, the dialogues, images, themes are all profoundly moving. I have not had such an emotional response to a piece of fiction in a long time. I learned many things from this book: I remembered prayer, I thought of loss, and love and the pervasive nature of love that allows you to conquer fear and stigma. I learned about the beauty of the human spirit to persevere, to hold onto love despite ...more
Amal Bedhyefi
Oct 25, 2017 rated it liked it
If you read the first review , then excuse my naivety.
This book has been assigned for me at Uni , Although I did not have big expectations, it sure caught me off guard.
The whole time I was reading this , I was having a continual feeling of déjà vu as if I've read or seen this before , not the same story obviously but the same atmosphere / style .
The story of a northern african making her way through Schotland , a western society , reminded me of Chimamanda Adiche's Amer
Tamara Agha-Jaffar
The Translator by Leila Aboulela is the love story of Sammar, a young Sudanese widow, and a Scottish professor.

The novel opens a few years after the death of Sammar’s husband, a student at an Aberdeen university. After taking his body back to Khartoum for burial and leaving their young son with her mother-in-law, Sammar has returned to Aberdeen. She supports herself by working as an Arabic translator at the University. She grieves for her husband, is isolated and lonely. She gradually emerges f
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
When the viewpoint seems so rare, it makes you realize just how rare it is to have a muslim woman tell her own story and express her feelings in fiction. But it's not to be read just for it's particular point of view - it is also a beautiful story of being and loving and being alien in your own culture as well as the one you're living in. The contrasts and the sameness, the love and loss that goes with human migration.
You should definitely read Aboulela, and not just for the diversity!
Sep 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The story of (oddly enough) a translator:) This is about a Sudanese widow who has embraced her Islamic religion. She is living in Scotland when she start working as an Arabic translator for an Islamic scholar who is not a believer. After they fall in love she must decide what is stronger, her love or her faith. What this novel explores with great finesse is the true nature of faith. What it means to be faithful and what it means to give your life over to that. The language in this novel is a joy ...more
Jul 28, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It’s probably near impossible in this day and age to write a disparaging review of a book featuring a Muslim character and not come across as Islamophobic. (It’s ever so much easier to just reductively scream phobia this or racist that instead of actually comprehending the context, following the empirical evidence trail, thinking for yourself, etc.) But hey, I’m gonna give it a whirl. So first…some background. Actual facts from reputable sources. Sudan has recently made the news for ever so prog ...more
Aug 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
The Translator is about Sammar, a Muslim widow, who moves to Scotland with her husband before he dies in a car accident. Its a moving and accurate tale about a demographic that is inexplicable to most Westerners: the Muslim woman. The tale starts with Sammar translating a document sent by a terrorist group. She notes how rife with spelling mistakes it is, how pathetic and instantly creates a barrier between Muslims like her, and uneducated extremists like them, fighting against a force they don' ...more
Apr 09, 2009 rated it liked it
I was both absorbed by and ambivalent about this book - which is an oddity, because I wouldn't have thought it was possible to be both at once. But here I am - absorbed and ambivalent - having wanted very much to see where the story would go, and yet not really finding Aboulela's writing particularly compelling.

The Translator focuses on the life of Summar, a young, Sudanese widow in Aberdeen, who translates Arabic texts for a department at the local university. There she meets Rae, an Islamic sc
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: migration, masters
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ibtisam hashim
Sep 24, 2013 rated it it was ok
I was expecting a lot from this novel when i bought it! I am now disappointed..2 stars for its beautiful language & the rich scent of Sudan!
I hated the gloomy side of Sammar,i hated her detachment from her son(her own flesh & blood),i hated how she cornered Rae to convert &marry her! LoL
I loved the Sudan part of the was closer to my soul!!
georgia ☽
4.5 stars

the only reason i knocked .5 stars off was because something about the ending felt a little rushed. otherwise, this was wonderful - especially the stunning writing.
Jun 08, 2018 rated it liked it
I enjoyed this understated love story between a widowed Sudanese woman, who is a devout Muslim, and a secular Islamic scholar for whom she translates. Half takes place in Aberdeen, Scotland and half in Khartoum, Sudan. Themes of faith, grief, exile, and family (some politics, but not much) explored with quiet and lovely prose.
Jan 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-fiction
This is a beautiful novel, one which provides a window onto the Islamic faith and hope that there might be understanding between East and West.
Jul 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
A gentle reflection on what is often lost in translation between cultures, told through a not-very- interesting love story.
May 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really love Aboulela's writing style. In this novel, like her latter two, she has a precise yet lyrical writing style that really pulls the reader in. Aboulela can take the mundane and show just how special it really is. Whether it's the daily prayer that Muslims do, taking a child to school or sitting in an office and eating lunch with a co-worker, Aboulela manages to make these ordinary activities into something profound and meaningful with just a few words.

As with her other novels, Aboulela
Spoiler alert ( even though the spoiler is hidden)
Set in Scottland and Sudan, this novel is both moving and light. The story follows the life of a widowed Sudanese academic who works as a translator for a university professor. The author Leila Aboulela is extremely gifted in describing the leading characters thought process and alternating seamlessly between what is currently happening in her life, her feelings, memories and conversations. She describes very well the feeling of what it is like
May 03, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Refreshing, serene, and honest. I think this is one of the first books I've read either about or by a Muslim woman that didn't make me want to bang my head against the wall.

The two main characters--Rae and Sammar--are described so beautifully--and I enjoyed the simple way in which she described their budding relationship. The themes of love and loss, doubt and faith, prayer and patience, were beautifully navigated. One of my favorite lines was near the end, when Rae tells Sammar that what he re
Orla Hegarty
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the second book I've read by Ms. Aboulela and it did not disappoint. I love her writing style and her ability to capture complexity and nuance through a simple plot. I look forward to working my way through her modest treasure trove of writing. ...more
Janet Hutchinson
This is not a story of intrigue or mystery, but one of a woman's faith in her god, and the desire for love. Her writing beautifully contrasts Aberdeen and Khartoum, the damp grey cold against the hot, dry days. Beautifully written. ...more
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a quiet but powerful story.
Beautiful, sure, but overwrought.
Susan Beecher
Jul 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very moving and compelling novel about a Sudanese Muslim widow living in Scotland. Highly recommend.
Mar 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Written by an immigrant muslim woman, about an immigrant muslim woman, this book offers a new perspective on the divide between the northern and southern Euroafrican cultures; between the believers and the non-believers; between a society that embraces religion and the secular.

The books takes the reader through a journey of memories, sometimes seamlessly woven into the text, yet never confusing. Of a childhood in Sudan, or the time following the death of Sammar's husband in Scotland. The langua
Jun 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: from-the-world
So this is one of the moments when the mood for a nice love story strikes me. A love story not like the cheesy ones we see nowadays, but rather something of a transcendatalist nature.... And I found this one!

Sammar, a Sudanese widowed translator, who lives in Aberdeen Scotland, faces loneliness and exile as her beloved husband, Tarig, dies in a car accident. Her faith keeps her from surrendering to a hollow life or to an inevitable suicide. She meets Rae, an Islamic scholar in the university whe
Jul 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: islamicfiction
This is a wonderful book in every way - well written, true to life. The central character is a Muslim woman of Sudanese origin,Sammar, living in Scotland. She falls in love with a Scot secular Islamic scholar and goes through the agony of loving him but knowing that she has to keep her Islamic distance from him. Finally she pleads with him to take the Shahadah so they can marry. He refuses because he isn't sure that he believes. Since it is a 'romance' it ends happily when he accept Islam in his ...more
Apr 06, 2011 rated it liked it

I give it a 3 out of 5. The plot unfolded slowly yet predictably. I probably made the mistake of reading her first novel last because she definitely grew as an author. Her other titles are far richer and more complex. This one, unlike the others, did not move me to tears even though I empathized with the Sammar, the woman in question.

"I missed all that, you learning to pray.." "It's a lonely thing, he said, 'you can't avoid it'" "What?" "The spiritual path. Everyone is on his own in this." - The
Nov 24, 2017 rated it did not like it
Did not like and would not recommend this novel to anyone. It's a quick, easy read, but silly, without humour.
Neither Sammar nor Rae have any likeable characteristics. Sammar is naive, selfish, self-righteous, and childish. She abandons her child because she feels sorry for herself. Rae is a caricature of an academic.
Religious proselytizing puts me off. It didn't illuminate anything about Islam which was part of the reason I selected the book.
On the positive side, the author has a wonderful way
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jasa penerjemah tersumpah 1 2 Sep 17, 2018 08:40PM  
jasa penerjemah tersumpah 1 2 Sep 17, 2018 12:46AM  
Great African Reads: Sept/Oct 2018 | The Translator by Leila Aboulela SPOILERS ALLOWED 6 23 Sep 14, 2018 02:38AM  
Great African Reads: Sept/Oct 2018 | The Translator by Leila Aboulela NO SPOILERS 8 30 Sep 07, 2018 01:00AM  
Middle East/North...: Sudan: The Translator 43 33 Sep 13, 2015 09:42PM  

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Leila Aboulela grew up in Khartoum, Sudan where she attended the Khartoum American School and Sister School. She graduated from Khartoum University in 1985 with a degree in Economics and was awarded her Masters degree in statistics from the London School of Economics. She lived for many years in Aberdeen where she wrote most of her works while looking after her family; she currently lives and lect ...more

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