ABU DHABI // Literary teams from the capital spent the weekend in New York promoting the virtues of translation into and from Arabic. The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach) had a stand at BookExpo America, featuring Kalima, its translation project, while a group representing the Sheikh Zayed Book Award held a seminar in the New York Public Library on the same theme.
Dr Ali bin Tamim, the director of Kalima, said the stand had attracted considerable interest. "This year the BookExpo America was focused on the Arab market so we were very happy to participate in the event," he said. David Hirsch, the chief librarian at the National Library, said the trip to America had opened up several new opportunities for Kalima. "Kalima has been in touch with a number of US publishers and authors and is studying the possibility of translating some of their new titles," he said.
At Saturday's seminar, Dr Ali al Noaimi, who sits on the advisory council for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, presented a short film about the award, explaining the nine different categories including this year's focus - translation. The panelists included Sa'ad Maslouh, the winner of last year's translation category and a professor of linguistics at Kuwait University, Christopher Stone, associate professor of Arabic Language and head of the Arabic programme at Hunter College, New York, and Elliott Colla, associate professor of Comparative Literature and Director of Middle East Studies at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
The panel discussed the concept of the desert in Arabic literature and how to render that into western culture, as well as the difficulties and inaccuracies in translations of The Arabian Nights. The seminar also marked the opening of the nomination process for the 2010 Sheikh Zayed Book Award. The independent annual award was established under the patronage and support of Adach and in memory of Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the nation. There are prizes in all nine categories, which apart from translation include children's literature, publishing and fine arts. The total prize money each year is Dh7 million. The three-day BookExpo America ended on Sunday.