The Jewish master of Arabic

Most revered for his Arabic to English translation of the Koran, Nessim Joseph Dawood was a revolutionary in introducing the West to Arab literature and culture – but his life story is so much more.

January 22, 2015 15:00
Nessim Dawood

Nessim Dawood. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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On November 20 the world lost a rare talent with the death of Nessim Joseph Dawood.

An Iraqi Jew, he is revered for his masterful translation of the Koran into English for Penguin Classics, never out of print since 1956. He was the 20th century’s most outstanding translator of Arabic to English and English to Arabic, and a man with an extraordinary sense of language and poetry. To paraphrase William Shakespeare, whose work fascinated the scholar from an early age: The man had music in himself.


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