3 January 08 | Chad W. Post

Following up on earlier announcements, Ed Nawotka writes about Kalima’s ambitious program in today’s International Herald Tribune.

Part of the United Arab Emirates’ Authority for Culture and Heritage, Kalima is a nonprofit enterprise with the goal of translating 100 titles a year into Arabic and distributing them throughout the Middle East. Which sounds like it will be quite a challenge:

Karim Nagy, Kalima’s chief executive, acknowledges the hurdles. The Arabic-speaking world comprises about 300 million people in more than 20 countries. Censorship laws vary, and often there is no strong bookselling community or distribution channel.

“First, we will worry about getting the books translated,” he said. “Then we will work to optimize their distribution.”

To put this program in perspective, Nawokta cites some interesting figures:

About 10,000 books have been translated into Arabic in the past millennium, according to a 2003 study by the United Nations Development Program. The demand has been small, partly owing to the historical tendency to focus most reading on religious texts and classical poetry. About 300 new translations appear each year, so Kalima’s planned 100 titles represents a substantial addition.

Along with Europa Editions new enterprise Sharq/Gharb, the Arab world is about to get in an influx of international literature.

Kalima is still in the process of acquiring rights to its first 100 books, but the current list includes Milton’s Paradise Regained, Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Collected Stories, Alan Greenspan’s The Age of Turbulence, and The Kite Runner.

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