The Book Standard
By Kimberly Maul
A new cultural initiative, which will translate books into Arabic, has launched today and will translate 100 books within the first year. Kalima, which means "word" in Arabic, will allow readers in the Arab world the chance to read English- and other-language books that they may not have been able to read before. In the Arab world, many books are only available in their original language, making them inaccessible to the average reader.
"The rest of the world enjoys a wealth of domestic and translated writing, why should the Arab world be any different?" said Karim Nagy, founder and chief executive of Kalima. "Today Kalima is bringing Arabic readers all over the world quality writing in their mother tongue—something they have been deprived of for so long. Kalima has taken the first steps on the long path toward rebuilding the Arab library."
According to the 2002 UNDP Arab Human Development Report, 330 books, on average, are translated into Arabic each year, which is one-fifth of the books Greece translates. Looking at all the books translated since the 9th century, about 100,000 books have been translated into Arabic, which is approximately the same amount that Spain translates each year. Kalima will translate 100 books in its first year, including titles originally published in English, Swedish, German, Latin, Chinese, French and more.
Six books have already been translated to kick off the program: Il Segno (The Sign), by Umberto Eco, The Halo Effect, by Phil Rosenzweig, The Future of Human Nature, by Jurgen Habermas, A Briefer History of Time, by Stephen Hawking, Kafka on the Shore, by Haruki Murakami, and The Arab Roots of Capitalism, by Gene Heck.
The nonprofit initiative is funded by a grant from the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage and receives endorsement from H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and Chairman of the Executive Council.
"Kalima reflects a broader cultural renaissance emerging from the Arab region, including a revived interest in the Arabic language," said Mohamed Khalaf Al-Mazrouei, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. "Arabic is a beautifully expressive language, and one that should be celebrated and enjoyed."
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