Culture authority invites nominations for translation

Americans are invited to nominate novels and poetry that reflect their country to be translated into Arabic.

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ABU DHABI // Americans have been invited to nominate novels and poetry that reflect the spirit, dreams and challenges of their country to be translated into Arabic as part of a scheme aimed at building understanding between the US and the Arab world. Votes can be submitted online at, and the nominees will be considered for translation in 2009 and beyond, the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage said yesterday.

The project is being undertaken by Kalima, an initiative sponsored by the authority, which funds the translation of more than 100 classic and contemporary titles from around the world into Arabic each year. Kalima recently announced that John Milton's Paradise Lost, an epic poem about the fall of man written in the 17th century, and his later work Paradise Regained would be among eight texts that will soon be available in Arabic.

"The UAE has become an innovative social investor and an important gateway for the United States and the West," said the UAE ambassador to the US, Yousef al Otaiba. "Kalima's invitation for US readers to nominate books for translation is one of many ways that the UAE is building bridges between the United States and the Arab world." Kalima was set up last November to deal with the dearth of foreign texts available in Arabic. In many Arab countries important literary and academic works are only available in their original language, making them inaccessible to many readers.

According to the UN Arab Human Development Report, each year only one book is translated into Arabic for every million Arabs. Each year Spain manages to translate into Spanish the same number of books translated into Arabic over the past 1,000 years. "It is part of Abu Dhabi's vision to become a centre of learning, cross-cultural understanding and the diffusion of knowledge throughout the region," said Dr Ali bin Tamim, Kalima's chief executive officer. He drew comparisons between Kalima and Bait al Hikma, or House of Wisdom, the ninth-century library and centre for translation in Baghdad which was considered to have played a major role in the spread of intellectual ideas.

"The complete works of great American writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and William Faulkner are all inaccessible to Arab readers," he said. "These writers paint a vivid picture of the trials and triumphs of life in America, and by putting works like this into the hands of Arab readers we are restoring ancient bridges between our two cultures." Kalima aims to ensure that it include a mix of literature, natural and social sciences as well as other genres such as history, arts, and business books.

The New Life, or La Vita Nuova in its original Italian, a medieval text containing Dante Alighieri's first two collections of verse, is among the latest batch of texts to be translated. Other titles are: The Large, the Small and the Human Mind, a collection of lectures by the renowned physicist and mathematician Roger Penrose; Simon Kuper's Football Against the Enemy; Rasmus and the Vagabond by Astrid Lindgren; and two philosophy books, AH Armstrong's An Introduction to Ancient Philosophy and Eric Hoffer's The True Believer, as well as Milton's tomes.

It was recently announced that three novels by Doris Lessing, the acclaimed British novelist and winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Literature, will also be translated into Arabic.