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إلى ما

Discussion in 'العربية (Arabic)' started by analeeh, Jul 1, 2013.

  1. analeeh Senior Member

    English - UK
    I'm having trouble working out exactly what is going on in this sentence from Naguib Mahfouz's Awlād Ḥāratinā. The speaker is talking about his work writing up complaints and so on for the largely illiterate people of his quarter of Cairo, and he says:

    وعلى كثرة المتظلمين الذين يقصدونني فإن عملي لم يستطع أن يرفعني عن المستوى العام للمتسولين في حارتنا, إلى ما أطلعني عليه من أسرار الناس وأحزانهم حتى ضيق صدري وأشجن قلبي.

    I understand the gist of this sentence - his work doesn't provide him with the financial means to rise above the level of the quarter's beggars, but he does learn all about the 'secrets and sadnesses' of the people, until his heart is saddened and his chest narrowed (though I suspect this ضيق is intended idiomatically, like ضاق بـ). What I don't really understand is what إلى ما is doing here. Looking it up in dictionaries finds only an interrogative 'to what' (apparently spelt إلام). My translation as it stands would run like this:

    '(Even) with the great number of unfortunates who sought me out, my work was unable to raise me above the general level of the beggars in our quarter, ??? it taught me of the secrets of the people and their sadnesses, until my chest was narrowed and my heart saddened.'

    Edit: oh and in case it helps, I'm reading it like this (possibly I've misread a word and this explains my confusion although I don't think so): wa-3alaa kuthrati l-muta6'allimiina l-ladhiina yaq9iduuna-nii fa-2inna 3amal-ii lam yasta6i3 2an yarfa3a-nii 3an il-mustawaa l-3aammi li-l-mutasawwiliina fii 7aarati-naa, 2ilaa maa 2a6la3a-nii 3alay-hi min 2asraari n-naasi wa-2a7zaani-him 7attaa 9'iiqa 9adr-ii wa-2ushjina qalb-ii.

    But what exactly is إلى ما doing here?

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2013
  2. AndyRoo Senior Member

    London
    English
    I think it is saying that "it didn't raise me above the level of the quarter's beggars as much as it acquainted me with the people's secrets and sorrows".

    So perhaps it could be read that it did raise him above the level of the quarter's beggars, but not much.

    So the إلى ما means "to the extent which", I think.
     
  3. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    The way I understand it is:
    My job didn't raise me above the common level of the beggers in our alley (?), add to that/moreveor, it acquainted me with so many secrets and sorrows that it felled me with sadness.

    Or, in other words: not only the job didn't bring me money, but it also brought me lots of sadness.
     
  4. analeeh Senior Member

    English - UK
    Hmm - but isn't that rather إلا ما, not إلى ما? or can they mean the same thing?
     
  5. Crimson-Sky

    Crimson-Sky Senior Member

    بلاد بابل - Babylonia
    Arabic-العربية
    Hello :)
    You can see it this way (forget what's in brackets) ,
    ..وعلى كثرة المتظلمين الذين يقصدونني فإن عملي لم يستطع أن يرفعني (عن المستوى العام للمتسولين في حارتنا) إلى مستوى ما أطلعني عليه من أسرار الناس وأحزانهم حتى
     
  6. analeeh Senior Member

    English - UK
    Hmm, that's what I thought - but then I can't work out how the sentence works. 'My work was unable to raise me to the level of what it informed me of in the way of...' (awkward translation I know). Should I interpret it, then, as 'it was unable to elevate me (financially) to the same degree that it informed me'?

    Thanks guys!
     
  7. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    No, إلا ما (illa maa) expresses an exception, but إلى ما is like بالإضافة إلى ما أطلعني عليه or أَضِف إلى ذلك ما أطلعني عليه.
     
  8. analeeh Senior Member

    English - UK
    Hmm - but surely there the meaning of addition comes from the verbs, not from إلى.

    I'm a bit confused because I've got three quite different answers here!
     
  9. Bakr Senior Member

    Arabic
    I agree with the translation of cherine: بالإضافة إلى ما أطلعني عليه : add to that/moreveor

    To clarify, if we change the order of the sentences:
    وعلى كثرة المتظلمين الذين يقصدونني فإن عملي، إلى ما أطلعني عليه من أسرار الناس وأحزانهم حتى ضيق صدري وأشجن قلبي، لم يستطع أن يرفعني
    عن المستوى العام للمتسولين في حارتنا
     
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2013
  10. GoldBug

    GoldBug Senior Member

    Great Lakes area - USA
    American English
    I agree with Bakr and Cherine's interpretation of the phrase إلى ما

    In this instance, my English translation for the phrase would be: "Not only that," or "Furthermore," with a preference for "Not only that". Hence my preliminary translation of the text would be:

    "Even though I had a great number of impoverished clients, my work couldn’t provide me with enough income to raise my general situation above what it was for the beggars that roamed our neighborhood. Not only that, my work revealed to me the innermost secrets of my clients and their sorrows and misery so that I had difficulty breathing and my heart was (constantly) filled with gloom."




     
  11. Crimson-Sky

    Crimson-Sky Senior Member

    بلاد بابل - Babylonia
    Arabic-العربية
    I'm sorry but I have to disagree here ; why does "إلى ما" need an interpretation ? It's neither a phrase nor an expression.
    إلى ما أطلعني عليه من أسرار is the same as إلى الأسرار(?) التي أطلعني عليها .
     
  12. analeeh Senior Member

    English - UK
    OK - but then what on earth does that mean? 'It could not elevate me from the general level of the beggars to the secrets which it taught me about' doesn't make any sense to me.

    Mahfouz! *shakes fist*
     
  13. GoldBug

    GoldBug Senior Member

    Great Lakes area - USA
    American English
    No, it doesn't make any sense.

    Plus, your "....from the general level of the beggars..." is also almost sub-standard English.

    That's why I again urge you to consider "إلى ما" as something along the lines of (furthermore, moreover, add to that, in addition, or my favorite "not only that") as the the true realization of what the author means and what makes sense.

    In translations such as these, you have to come up with a "real" English sentence.....the way one would express the thought in English no matter how far from the original you may have to roam. Otherwise, the translation is simply Arabic syntax using English words (which isn't English).
     
  14. Bakr Senior Member

    Arabic
    In an ordinary style:

    وعلى الرغم من كثرة المتظلمين الذين يقصدونني، وبالإضافة إلى ما أطلعني عليه من أسرار الناس وأحزانهم حتى ضيق صدري وأشجن قلبي، فإن عملي لم

    يستطع أن يرفعني عن المستوى العام للمتسولين في حارتنا
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2013
  15. Crimson-Sky

    Crimson-Sky Senior Member

    بلاد بابل - Babylonia
    Arabic-العربية
    I think he's comparing two levels : a level of knowledge (the knowledge he's acquired through his work -burdensome knowledge/sad knowledge) and a social level -social position (his social status within his society*).
    وعلى كثرة المتظلمين الذين يقصدونني فإن عملي لم يستطع أن يرفعني عن المستوى العام للمتسولين في حارتنا, إلى ما أطلعني عليه من أسرار الناس وأحزانهم حتى ضيق صدري وأشجن قلبي. = My work, although it has provided money, has brought too much sadness to my heart. (sadness >>>> money)
     
  16. Bakr Senior Member

    Arabic
    أجل افهم ما تقصده

    لم يستطع أن يرفعني عن المستوى العام للمتسولين في حارتنا, إلى مستوى المطلعين على أسرار الناس

    وما أراه

    لم يستطع أن يرفعني عن المستوى العام للمتسولين في حارتنا, بل أضاف إلى ذلك إطلاعي على أسرار الناس وأحزانهم حتى
    ضيق صدري وأشجن قلبي
     
  17. GoldBug

    GoldBug Senior Member

    Great Lakes area - USA
    American English
    1. Sorry, I completely disagree with your analysis. There might be 2 "dimensions" at play here....his work and his social level, but he's not COMPARING them....he's saying they both exist at the same time (making him doubly miserable).

    2. عملي لم يستطع أن يرفعني عن المستوى العام للمتسولين = My work, although it has provided money,..... (your translation)

    There's no way this English translation is an acceptable rendition of what the Arabic is saying. In fact, the Arabic is saying nearly the OPPOSITE of this English translation. It says he barely makes enough money to live on.....he's at the level of a beggar.

    Saying "...although it has provided money,.....' makes it sound like this is an "incidental" aspect of his work, this it is not really what's making him miserable. The English translation makes it sound much too casual an aspect of his work whereas in fact, the little money he does gets is the MAJOR cause of his misery. And, in addition to that, he has to listen to.......

    3. So the first idea (he barely makes enough money to live on) is complete. Then, in addition to that, he has to hear the lamentations of his clients, making his work doubly miserable. But the second part is not dependent on the first part. Even if his clients made him wealthy, he would still have to listen to their miserable lamentations and he would still be miserable because of that.

    It's not a CAUSE and EFFECT dynamic here. It's a THIS PLUS THIS dynamic.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2013
  18. Crimson-Sky

    Crimson-Sky Senior Member

    بلاد بابل - Babylonia
    Arabic-العربية
    You have absolutely the right to disagree :)
     
  19. analeeh Senior Member

    English - UK
    If this were about producing a translation, then I'd agree with you, but I'm not interested here in producing nice idiomatic literary English - I just want to understand how the Arabic sentence works and what meaning it expresses, thus my somewhat literal translations.

    I agree with you that an English translation with 'although it brought me money' seems to say completely the opposite of what it says in Arabic. It seems like there are two conflicting interpretations here from different people - one which sees يرفع إلى as a unit, and another which sees إلى as being independent and meaning something like 'on top of, (in addition) to'. The second definitely seems to make more sense, but it slightly troubles me that certain native speakers are confident of the other interpretation.
     
  20. barkoosh Senior Member

    Beirut
    Arabic
    You're completely right as a non-native speaker to be confused. In any language, a writer can adopt a style that requires a bit of "thinking outside the box" to be understood, which is easy to do for native speakers but difficult for non-native.

    إلى ما does seem to be confusing here. Personally I am not used to using it this way, but it could be a dialect thing. This also applies to على كثرة. For me, على كثرة means "because of the many...", but here it's used to mean "in spite of the many...". Still, I can get what the writer wants to say. I can easily say to myself, "the writer obviously meant this not that", something a non-native speaker can't do unless he/she is exposing themselves a lot to the language.

    PS: this is how the sentence is rendered in the English version, as quoted in a different book.
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2013
  21. AndyRoo Senior Member

    London
    English
    This is the translation on that page:

    "Although many wretched people seek me out, I am barely better off than many of our alley's beggars, though I am privy to so many of the people's secrets and sorrows that I have become a sad and brokenhearted man."

    To me, this translation (using the word "barely") is suggesting he was actually a little bit better off than the beggars (and surely he must have been?). This makes me slightly doubtful that that "إلى ما" just means "moreover" or "in addition" as then the correct translation would be "I am no better off than the beggars...."
     
  22. GoldBug

    GoldBug Senior Member

    Great Lakes area - USA
    American English
    1. I have no problem with "barely" and the conclusion "that he was actually a little better off than the beggars".
    But I don't see how that prevents the use of moreover, in addition, etc.

    "Although many wretched people seek me out, I am barely better off than many of our alley's beggars. In addition, (etc) I am privy to so many of the people's secrets and sorrows that I have become a sad and brokenhearted man." = perfectly acceptable sentences and sequences to me.

    The fact that he was "a little better off" than the beggars does not change the fact that he was still miserable because of it. "I am no better off than the beggars...." is not required for "moreover" or "in addition" etc. You just have to change one sentence into two to make it all work.

    It also does not change the fact that IN ADDITION, he was also "sad" etc. because he was privy to his client's secrets.

    We're still talking about 2 different situations neither of which is dependent on the other and both of which make him miserable.

    Thanks to barkoosh for this source previously unknown to me. However, there are problems with the translation. Check out the verb tenses and sequence in the paragraph beginning with "I was the first....." and you'll see that several things have to be changed to attain correct usage. (the juxtaposition between past and present is illogical).
     
    Last edited: Jul 8, 2013
  23. AndyRoo Senior Member

    London
    English
    What I was thinking is that the sentence:
    عملي لم يستطع أن يرفعني عن المستوى العام للمتسولين في حارتنا
    on its own clearly means "my work could not lift me above the general level of the beggars of the alley". If إلى ما means "in addition" then this is the meaning of the sentence.

    So why did the translator use "barely"?

    I go back to my post 2:

    Now I am not saying I am right - and I rather doubt it actually. But I think it is interesting this translation does fit my explanation in the above post.

    There is a big difference in my mind between being better off than the beggars and not, so it would be nice to get to the bottom of this!
     
  24. cherine

    cherine Moderator

    Alexandria, Egypt
    Arabic (Egypt).
    Hi,

    I don't mean to sound stubborn, but I still hold to my interpretation.
    He's saying that although he worked alot (كثرة المتظلمين الذين يقصدونني) he didn't make enough money to raise him above the general/common level of the beggars in his neighborhood. And not only did that job fail to raise him financially, it also brought him lots of sadness because of what he kept learning about the problems and secrets of his "clients".
     

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