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Laughing Without an Accent: Adventures of an Iranian American, at Home and Abroad par [Dumas, Firoozeh]
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Descriptions du produit


Funny in Persian

Iran does not currently adhere to international copyright laws. This comes as a shock to most people, given Iran’s law-abiding image.

Not adhering to international copyright laws means that any book, regardless of origin, can be translated into Persian and sold in Iran. No matter how poorly a book might be translated, the author has no control. No artist wants his name on a work that does not represent him fairly, but in Iran, tell it to the judge, and he doesn’t care. When Abbas Milani, a very well respected author and professor, found a Persian translation of his history book, he found it to be completely different from the original. He contacted the publisher in Iran, who told him, “Our translation is better than your book.”

Every time a Harry Potter installment is released, there is a mad rush around the world to translate the book. One Iranian publisher divides each book into about twenty sections, giving each section to a different translator. That way, his version, which must resemble a patchwork quilt more than anything J. K. Rowling actually wrote, is the first on the Iranian market.

Knowing such horror stories, I feared the inevitable translation of my memoirs, Funny in Farsi, into Persian. Funny in Farsi is a collection of humorous vignettes, verbal snapshots of my immigrant family. In that book I was very careful not to cross the line into anything embarrassing or insulting. My goal was to have the subjects of my story laugh with me, not cringe and want to move to Switzerland under assumed names. But for all I knew, a translated version might make my family look like fools. Even though I had not used my maiden name in the original printing of the book, it took about twelve minutes for the average Iranian to figure out my last name, Jazayeri. Iranians are very good that way.

I decided to make my own preemptive strike and find a translator in Iran. This was not as easy as it sounds. Humor, like poetry, is culture-specific and does not always work in translation. What’s downright hilarious in one culture may draw blank stares in another.

When we came to America, my family could not figure out why a pie thrown in someone’s face was funny. The laugh tracks told us it was supposed to be hilarious, but we thought it was obnoxious. We also saw it as a terrible waste of food, a real no-no for anyone from any country in the world except for the United States.

We were also baffled by Carol Burnett’s Tarzan yell. Anyone who watched her show regularly knew that during the audience question-and-answer section, one person would inevitably ask her to do her Tarzan yell. We always hoped she would say, “Not tonight.” But instead, she would let out a loud and long yell that left the audience in stitches and us bewildered. “She shouldn’t do that,” my dad always said. We agreed and waited for all her other sketches, which we loved. There was just something goofy about her that made us laugh, especially when she was with Tim Conway. His humor had much to do with facial expressions and body language, which, thankfully, did not require translation. There is also something universally funny about the contrast between a short man and a tall man, which was played out with Harvey Korman. Given that most of the men in my family are closer in height to Tim Conway than to Harvey Korman, I assume there was among us a nervous understanding of the foibles of the short man.

We also adored Flip Wilson, especially when he became Geraldine. That character sketch, with “Geraldine’s” sassy attitude, had us rocking back and forth in laughter on our ugly brown striped sofa. One time, Flip Wilson sang “He put the lime in the coconut” in his high-pitched mock-sultry Geraldine voice, and my father laughed so hard that he cried. I didn’t think it was that funny, but watching my father laugh made us all laugh. The odd thing is that thirty-five years later, my father still remembers some of the words to that song, singing it as Kazem imitating Flip Wilson imitating Geraldine. It sounds nothing like the original, especially when he ekes out a “nee nee nee nee” instead of the forgotten lyrics.

I knew that Funny in Farsi would be a difficult book to translate because so much of its humor has to do with the American culture of the seventies. How does one translate “Shake ’n Bake” for cultures where slow cooking, not speed and ease, is the preferred method of food preparation, where a woman standing in her kitchen shaking a drumstick in a plastic bag and looking downright happy would cause concern? How does one convey to someone who has never seen The Price Is Right that the words “Come on down!” are always followed by a hysterical person shrieking and jumping up and down?

Through my uncle, who knew someone who knew someone, I was put in touch with a well-known humor translator living in Iran. The same week I started corresponding with him I received a very polite e-mail from Mohammad, another translator in Iran, asking for permission to translate my book. I thanked him but told him I already had someone. I deleted his e-mail.

Before we had a chance to formally agree on anything, my designated translator became ill, and it was obvious that I would have to find someone else. I was stuck, since I had deleted Mohammad’s e-mail. A month later, I received another e-mail from Mohammad telling me that he was still interested should I write another book. And this is how Mohammad Soleimani Nia, my translator, came into my life.

To test Mohammad’s skill, I asked him to translate one of my stories. I was quite pleased with the results and knew that, serendipitously, I had stumbled upon the right person.

Then we got started. Mohammad translated story by story and e-mailed each one to me. My father and I read each one and I e-mailed back our comments, most of which had to do with nuance. My father particularly objected when Mohammad translated “my father’s receding hairline” to “my father’s bald head.” I immediately sent Mohammad an e-mail quoting my father exactly: “I am not Yul Brynner!” A profusely apologetic e-mail followed.

Some of Mohammad’s mistakes revealed what life is like in the Middle East. In one story, I mentioned “eyes meeting across a room and va va va boom.” This was translated as “eyes meeting across a room and bombs going off.” I had to explain to Mohammad that, in America, “boom” is love.

In a story about Christmas, I wrote about “the bearded fellow” coming down people’s chimneys. Mohammad translated this literally. In Iran, however, a “bearded fellow” coming down the chimney is not a happy thought. The idea of going to bed so a bearded man, Khomeini perhaps, can come down the chimney would not cause visions of sugarplums dancing in anyone’s head. Instead, one would find frantic people packing their belongings, fast.

The title also had to change. Funny in Farsi is not funny in Farsi, or rather Persian, which is the correct name of the language in English. Saying, “I speak Farsi,” is like saying, “I speak français.” I was more than happy to let that title go since it has been the subject of many long e-mails from Iranians with far too much free time on their hands, accusing me of spreading misinformation about our vastly underappreciated culture. “The language is called Persian!” they tell me. I know. Please, should any reader, Iranian or otherwise, feel the urge to e-mail me with a complaint about the incorrect use of the word “Farsi” in the title of my previous book, please, instead, look up the words “humorous alliteration.”

In Iran, the title was changed to Atre Sombol, Atre Koj, meaning The Scent of Hyacinths, the Scent of Pine, which refers to the contrasting smells of the holidays. The Iranian New Year is associated with the scent of hyacinths, and Christmas, with the scent of pine—not to mention the bearded fellow coming down the chimney, although technically, that should not smell.

Then it was time for the censors. No movie or book can be made in Iran without approval from the government. Although there are no written guidelines stating exactly what is prohibited, common sense dictates that in an Islamic theocracy, nudity, profanity, insulting the religion or government, and perhaps anything having to do with Paris Hilton are all no-nos. Aside from those guidelines, one is at the mercy of the individual government employee assigned to each book. I hoped my stories would end up in the hands of one of those fun-loving, laugh-a-minute censors who would wave his teacup in the air, declaring, “Let’s change the name of that street again, this time to Firoozeh Dumas Avenue.”

I asked Mohammad how long the government would take to return my book. Surprisingly, there are no guidelines there, either. Perhaps some sort of Oil-for-Guidelines program could be negotiated.

Mohammad told me that the translation for James Joyce’s Ulysses has been at the censor’s office for seventeen years. I imagined the bearded censor sitting as at his desk, book open, chin back, mouth open, snoring loudly. That’s an example of a book that could use some nudity.

My stories were returned after six months. Three changes had to be made, two minor, one major.

The censor objected to my describing someone looking as if God had switched her nose with the beak of a toucan. One cannot blame God, I was told. In the Persian version, I reworded the sentence, using a passive voice, claiming that the woman’s nose looked as if it had been switched. One would think that in a book of humor some things would be obvious, but apparently not. Perhaps I had written the equivalent of Carol Burnett’s Tarzan yell.

From the Hardcover edition.

Revue de presse

“Dumas is one of those rare people: a naturally gifted storyteller.”—Alexander McCall Smith
Laughing Without an Accent is written . . . as if Dumas were sharing a cup of coffee with her reader as she relates her comic tales. . . . Firoozeh Dumas exudes undeniable charm [as she] reveals a zeal for culture—both new and old—and the enduring bonds of a family filled with outsize personalities.”San Francisco Chronicle
“There’s such warmth to Dumas’ writing that it invites the reader to pull up a seat at her table and smile right along with her at the quirks of her family and Iranians and Americans in general.”Booklist
“[Dumas is] like a blend of Anne Lamott and Erma Bombeck.”Bust
“Humorous without being sentimental, [Dumas] speaks to the American experience.”The Plain Dealer

From the Hardcover edition.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 2034 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 257 pages
  • Editeur : Villard (29 avril 2008)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B0015DRO14
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
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  • Word Wise: Activé
  • Composition améliorée: Non activé
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5 1 commentaire client
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I enjoyed this book very much and now am reading her first book. She is a great writer and storyteller!
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 4.6 étoiles sur 5 153 commentaires
22 internautes sur 22 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Funny and touching 30 mai 2008
Par SwissMary - Publié sur
Format: Relié
As an expatriate like Firoozeh Dumas, but not Iranian and in my case living in Europe, I was thrilled to hear that Firoozeh had written another memoir.
Laughing Without An Accent continues to delight and amuse, much like her earlier book Funny In Farsi. Each of the stories seem to somehow touch the heart and can connect with people of any culture. She tells her stories about her family with wit and affection.
Many of my friends live outside of the country they were born in. All found Funny In Farsi to be right on the mark and they could really relate to the situations and family issues in the book.
If you're reading Laughing Without An Accent as you relax on vacation, you should know that people will constantly be asking what you're reading that's so funny.
19 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 I love a good surprise 9 mai 2008
Par Garry Somers - Editor - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Got this for my wife, peeked at it, and was hooked. Dumas' family is MY family, only from somewhere else. I have uncles and aunts that are loopy (but whom I love), and sisters that I turn to when my parents do something crazy. No, there's no rocket science here - that we all tend to drive each other to distraction occasionally, and often in ways that are funny in retrospect, but a book doesn't have to be rocket science to have value and be something good and worthwhile. I was surprised by how much this book moved me, and that is rare. I liked it so much I contacted the author for an interview in The Blotter Magazine ([...]
15 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Another great book by Firoozeh Dumas 6 mai 2008
Par Vuecrest - Publié sur
Format: Relié
If you liked Funny in Farsi, then you will love this book.

Another collection of short stories with insightful and funny observations.

My favorite is the last chapter, where she tells the story of where she met one of the people that was taken hostage in the US embassy in Tehran years ago.
11 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Laughing Without an Accent, By Firoozeh Dumas 28 mai 2008
Par Javad H. Zadeh - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Laughing Without an Accent, By Firoozeh Dumas

Reading Laughing Without an Accent recently written by Firoozeh Dumas is the most entertaining thing I can think of. I have laughed and cried many times reading each chapter of this book. The chapter I laughed and cried most when reading it is "Seyyed Abdullah Jazayeri", which I think is for this same reason.

The book has stories from early 60's to the present time, ranging geographically over Iran, Europe and America. The reader is taken to restaurants with exotic foods, funeral ceremonies that celebrate life, homes with maids that climb up trees instead of attending to their duties or fall in love and get married to pregnant maids. It ends with a beautiful story of reconciliation; the friendship of the author with a former hostage.

It is a well written book, with few minor typos. I have read the book two times, so far, and have enjoyed it more the second time. Such a wonderful book deserves to be read many times. Her beautiful stories can be enjoyed again and again. The reader will really appreciate all the wonderful effects Firoozeh's writing has, as a bridge builder, in introducing the Iranian culture not only to Americans but also to the world.

I recommended her first book Funny in Farsi to all friends and relatives and gave at least half a dozen copies to some of them as gifts. They all loved it and said that by reading it they died from laughing. Now, it is her second book, "Laughing Without an Accent", truly a masterpiece, that the readers should read and enjoy much more than the first.

Javad H. Zadeh, Ph.D.
18 internautes sur 20 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Not like Firoozeh's first novel 27 octobre 2009
Par SoCalAvAZ - Publié sur
Achat vérifié
I read the first book by Firoozeh Dumas - Funny in Farsi - and fell in love. I must have read that book over 20 times, each time laughing out loud to myself. I absolutely love that book! Knowing Firoozeh's family also helped as I found little insights into the family and really saw what a warm and wonderful bond they all have. However, this review is not about Funny in Farsi, it's for Laughing Without An Accent. I enthusiastically got this book and started reading the minute it arrived. I couldn't wait to hear more about Firoozeh's family, her funny stories about her parents, and the humor of all that's happened in her life. I started reading and noticed right away that the book was different. I gave it the benefit of the doubt and kept reading but my disappointment grew.

Although this book has A FEW funny stories about her life and her parent's, this version seems to be all about Ms. Dumas's opinions on various subjects. I was so disappointed. Each chapter really is just about how she feels about certain aspects of life and American culture. I found it too opinionated and not at all about "Adventures of an Iranian American, at Home and Abroad".

For instance, towards the end of the book there is an entire chapter about Ms. Dumas taking her daughter shopping at the mall but after the first two paragraphs in steers into her opinion on how teenagers dress and society forcing inappropriate clothing on teenagers. I felt cheated ... this is not what I signed up for.

Ms. Dumas, if you're reading this it's with deep regret that I give you only 3-Stars because I absolutely love your humor and your family. But perhaps that sort of commentary was best for a magazine article or an interview. However, the very few stories you shared with us in this book were still truly funny, enlightening, and warm. Please keep up the story telling...
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