Samar Attar was born in Damascus (Syria). She has studied Comparative Literature in Syria, Canada and the United States, worked in Algeria, West Germany and Australia and is married to a German. Samar explains that being surrounded by so many different languages, makes it hard to tell which is your mother tongue (see Attar 2005, p. 132).
Attar started to self-translate because she had a hard time to get her novel Lina: A Portrait Of A Damascene Girl - written in Arabic - published. (see Attar 2005, p. 133). She sees the act of self-translation as a "response to continuous attempts to stifle and silence my voice as a novelist.The act of self-translation has made me visible and has given me a voice which I was denied as a writer in Arabic". (Attar 2005, p. 134) Self-translation also helps her to keep her Arabic language alive but overall "censorship was and still is the reason that forced me to use translation as a strategy to assert my voice as a writer". (Attar 2005, p. 141).
Concerning the discussion of the terms orginal/translation she states:
"Self translators cannot reproduce in one language what they have created in another. Ultimately, what they produce through self translation is a complementary literary text which does not simply echo the original, but has its own echo and effect in the target language and culture. Unlike conventional translation contexts, self translators do not usually engage in the two-stage process of reading-writing activity (their reading activity is of a different nature), but rather in a double writing process. Thus, their translated text becomes a version or a variant of the original text, indeed an original work in its own right." (Attar 2005, p. 139)
For further reading:
Attar, Samar (2005): Translating the exiled self. Reflections on translation and censorship. In: Intercultural Communication Studies XIV:4, p. 131–147. >> A longer version of this article appeared in Translation Review (special issue on Arabic), 65 (2003), p. 35-46.