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Modern Languages and Literatures

Dr. Cynthia Hahn shares her “Mots de la liberté” from the Salon du Livre conference, in Lebanon

Professor Cynthia Hahn was recently invited to the Salon du Livre, Beirut, to give three conference presentations in French, on her insight into the works of two well-known Lebanese authors, Ezza Agha Malak and Evelyne Accad. Story by Phumelela Mdluli ’15

On October 29, Professor of French Cynthia Hahn returned to Lebanon for the second time, to give three conference presentations in French on two well- known Lebanese authors for the Salon du Livre in Beirut. This book expo, the third largest in the francophone world, included a week’s worth of conference talks and book readings, along with book displays.

At the conference, Hahn spoke about the Lebanese authors Evelyne Accad and Ezza Agha Malak; whose novels she has translated. Her recent translations of the work of the Lebanese authors were also on display. In addition, she was invited to present a paper on Malak’s work, “Qu’as-tu fait de tes mômes, Papa?”, at the Institut Français in Tripoli, Lebanon; that author’s hometown. She will soon translate this novel as well. 

Finally, Hahn held a creative workshop at Beit El Hanane, a women’s shelter in Beirut that was founded by Evelyne Accad. While there, she was contracted to translate another of Malak’s novels, which will make her eighth novel translation (from the French). She is also to be interviewed at the end of November in French via Skype on her translations and original poetry, by Karen Boustany, Lebanese poet and TV host for the Lebanese program, “El Kitaab” (“The Book”).

Hahn’s relationship with Evelyne Accad goes back to graduate school at the University of IL (Urbana), where Accad was her professor and first exposed her to the work of Lebanese writers. Since the early 90s, Hahn has brought Accad to Lake Forest College on a regular basis to interact with her students on women’s issues in the Middle East and North Africa, topics in her novels. Most recently, Accad and Hahn collaborated on a bilingual format translation of Accad’s short stories; “Femmes du crépuscule/Women of the Twilight” (Alfabarre Press 2011). Hahn’s students in her FREN315 course in 2009 completed first drafts of many of these translations, engaging students in a direct way with the subject matter.

The conference ended on November 5; of her recent trip to Lebanon, Hahn notes, “It was an intense and enriching experience to be back in Lebanon after my first trip 6 years ago. There is so much reconstruction going on, both in the buildings, and in the way people build identity and connection within their mixed and constantly changing environment. In contrast to that week’s flurry of academic and urban activity, it was rejuvenating for me one afternoon to explore the extensive ruins of ancient Byblos, dating back to 7000 BC, as well as to visit the famous thousand-year old cedars of Lebanon at an altitude of 7000 feet, in the snow. It is truly awe-inspiring to visit the crossroads of ancient civilizations.”