Brian Whitaker warms my cockles with the news that an Abu Dhabi prince is diverting some of his money away from yachts and Philippino maids and investing it in a scheme called Kalima whereby ‘high-quality works of classic and contemporary writing are translated from other languages into Arabic.’
As regular readers of this nonsense will know, the absence of libraries and decent bookshops in Egypt pains me in a way comparable to listening to Celine Dion on repeat while being force-fed broad beans, and I will eulogise to anyone unable to escape me about books as a force for good and for brain-widening change and also as entertainment while on the loo.
Hence the Kalima scheme does, on the face of it, seem very wowzers blazers indeed. Note however the irony of Whitaker’s reference to the Da Vinci Code, of which both the book and film were banned in Egypt (though the book is now available I think, or am I imagining things?) How such a scheme would work in Egypt – where God bless them the censors routinely seize books which they judge are bad for us children – remains to be seen. It would doubtless involve official launches by Mr Prince of some harmless translated text which – once His Highness is safely ensconced in his limousine en route to the airport – would immediately be pounced on by the gatekeepers of our moral sensibilities and all copies of said tome used as the foundations for a new gated community in the desert.
Note also some of the odd readers’ suggestions for works worthy of translation.