Cover Art Across Translation

What do you see?

Despite clichéd warnings not to judge books by their covers, cover art nevertheless has much to reveal about the stories it clothes as well as the times and places in which those stories are produced and reproduced. Transformations in artistic styles and graphic design trends, publishing companies, political and social-cultural climates, market demands, time period, and geographical location are just some of the complex factors that imbue book cover art. One might wonder, after all that, just how much the covers could possibly relate to the content contained within. Beginning with comparisons of the cover art of Ibne Safi stories across translation, we can see how the images provide opportunities for visual analysis that are profoundly rich and confounding in equal measure.

The focus of this page is to consider how expectations about linguistically and culturally diverse audiences might have impacted the covers of these books across translation, and how these expectations might manifest certain cultural landscapes in turn. As you peruse the images, consider the following questions:

  • Is there a focal point on this cover? What is it?
  • Where do you see similarities and/or differences in the visual elements used on the covers (e.g. coloring, layout, lettering, movement, shapes, etc.)
  • If you are unfamiliar with the stories represented, what do you think they are about? If you are familiar, how do you see them reflected in the cover art (if at all)?
  • Consider the figures on each cover. What do you think their relation to or roles in each story are and why? Where are they from, how do they feel, etc.?
  • Take note of the publishing information (company, location, year). What might these indicate about expected audiences?

Comparison 1

Below: Lāsh kā qahqahah (The Laughing Corpse) is a small collection of Ibne Safi's stories in Urdu; also below are English translations of three stories contained within Lāsh kā qahqahah.

لاش کا قھقھہ
فرید بک ڈپو and Farīd Buk Ḍipo
Cover of Poisoned arrow
Blaft Publications in association with Tanquebar Press
Doctor dread
Blaft Publications in association with Tanquebar Press
Cover of Smokewater
Blaft Publications in association with Tanquebar Press

Comparison 2

Below: Tabāhī ke rāste is a small collection of Ibne Safi's stories in Urdu; a Hindi translation of Sānpoṉ ke shikārī (The Snake Hunters), a story contained within Tabāhī ke rāste; and a Hindi collection containing Nīle parinde (The Blue Birds), a story contained within Tabāhī ke rāste.

تباہی کے راستے
فريد بک ڈپو and Farīd Buk Ḍipo
साँपों के षिकारी
हार्पर कॉलिंस पब्लिशर्स and Hārparakôlinsa Pabliśersa ; The India Today Group
इब्ने सफ़ी की सर्वश्रेष्ठ कहनियाँ
रवि पॉकेट बुक्स and Ravī Pôkeṭa Buksa

Comparison 3

Below: Hindi collection containing Ibne Safi's story Shafaq ke pujārī (The Worshippers of Dusk) and two Urdu collections of Ibne Safi stories, both containing Shafaq ke pujārī.

खौफ़ का सौदगर
हार्पर कॉलिंस पब्लिशर्स and Hārparakôlinsa Pabliśersa ; The India Today Group
انوکھا انتقام
فرید بک ڈپو and Farīd Bukḍipo (Prāʼīveṭ) Limiṭeḍ
شفق کے پجاری
كتاب والا and Kitāb Vālā