By Khaled Al-Abdulhadi
KUWAIT: Kuwait Translation Society held a remembrance day for Tawfiq Al-Nassar on Tuesday at Kuwait National Library, with the attendance of Dr Tareq Fakher-Al-Deen, Fatimah Al-Mufarreh, Sanaa Taqi and his son Khaled Al-Nassar. Tawfiq Al-Nassar was a translator at the Amiri Diwan during the reigns of three different Amirs – Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem Al-Sabah, Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah and Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah.
Nassar was close to the late founder and owner of Kuwait Times Yousuf Al-Alyan, who appointed him as a parttime senior editor at Kuwait Times in 1964, when it was the only English newspaper in the GCC. He was then appointed as a translator by the late Amir Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem at the Amiri Diwan on the recommendation of Alyan.
Throughout his 40-year career at the Amiri Diwan which lasted until his retirement in 2006, Nassar accompanied Sheikh Abdullah Al-Salem, until his death. He then thought of returning to the oil sector, but Sheikh Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah retained him. Nassar rose through the ranks, becoming a consultant in 1969, and later assistant undersecretary to the minister in 1976.
During the reign of Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, and specifically during the Iraqi invasion, Nassar went to Taif where the Kuwaiti government was in exile. He worked not only as a translator, but also as a speechwriter for all meetings and letters to international heads of states and their ambassadors, as well as international and Arab organizations, following which Queen Elizabeth II honored him with the Order of St Michael and St George – Grand Cross. Moreover, Nassar was the Amir’s representative at many important institutions, such as Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research and Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.
“I am happy to honor all those involved in instituting, building and supporting Kuwait Translation Society, which was founded by Dr Aayid Al-Juraid, which helped improve translation in the country. I am happy to choose during this event a personality like the late Tawfiq Al-Nassar,” said Dr Tareq Fakher Al-Deen, head of Kuwait Translation Society. “Everything I have heard about him represented him to me as almost a perfect person. What is important to us at the society is the humanitarian side and professional side. We have already written the first part of his biography, and we are about to publish two more books about his professional career at the Amiri Diwan, and one about his influence on translation,” he said.
“He was a unique character throughout his 40-year experience. His constant thrive for education and openness towards different cultures allowed to him to store much knowledge, which is an important skill for any translator,” Fakher Al-Deen added.
Fatimah Al-Mufarreh, former head of the translation department at the Amiri Diwan, spoke about Nassar’s interesting life. “It is impossible to summarize what he meant to us in one sitting. He was an example of a helpful father figure who was always there to help us improve in our professions,” she told Kuwait Times.
“We are celebrating today International Translation Day, which is also special for Kuwait for the founding and instituting of the Kuwait Translation Society. During this special occasion, we remember one of the most important figures of translation in Kuwait, Tawfiq Al-Nassar, who was a reflection of a cultured translator who never struggled with a word, and almost never used a dictionary because of his expansive cultural background,” said Mufarreh, who worked under Nassar at the Amiri Diwan.
“Al-Nassar never studied translation – he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in geology, which influenced his knowledge, which is an important example of a translator’s weapon and is vital to translate any word,” she added.
Sanaa Taqi, head of the translation department at the Amiri Diwan, said: “Al-Nassar is the godfather of translation. During my time as the only French translator at the Diwan, I always asked for his advice and assistance when translating, even though he did not speak the language. Despite that, his help was tremendous, as all of my articles in French were reviewed by him after I finished them, to the point where he would find an error in an article and would know it. He was someone who trusted us and supported us throughout our careers, until we reached where we are.”
Tawfiq Al-Nassar’s son Khaled Al-Nassar said: “I would like to thank everyone who organized and participated in this event. As his family, it means so much to us that such an event takes place on such an important day for translators. My grandfather’s friend, the owner of Kuwait Times Yousuf Al-Alyan, inquired about my father through my grandfather, and found his amazing grasp of the English language was enough to partake partly in running the newspaper.” Many others people remembered the honorable life of the late Tawfiq Al-Nassar, who was without doubt a pivotal figure in Kuwait.