Confessions of an Arabic Interpreter: The Odyssey
of an Arabist, 1959-2009
To be an interpreter is to always speak the words of others. Leslie McLoughin has spent half a century whispering in the ear of prime ministers and potentates, but finds his own voice in Confessions Of An Arabic Interpreter.
Not that Mr McLoughlin has much to confess. His relationship with the Arabic language is more akin to a love affair, one that has deepened over time.
It had unlikely beginnings. McLoughlin's father was captured at Tobruk in 1942 and returned with a battery of new slang, including "bint" for a young woman.
The author's adventures in the Arab world take him to the Middle East Centre for Arabic Studies (MECAS), the British government's college in Lebanon many suspected was a school for spies, and much of the Gulf.
Later he served as translator for Margaret Thatcher and her successor, John Major, taking a call for the latter from King Fahd of Saudi Arabia on the same morning the IRA unleashed a battery of rockets on Downing Street.
Anyone interested in an unusual perspective on life in this region will enjoy reading McLoughin's book, but especially those considering a career as an interpreter.