x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Heidi in Arabic is a bestseller

The book, which was translated into Arabic from German last year, went on sale for the first time in the UAE at the opening Tuesday of the fair.

ABU DHABI // Sales of an Arabic version of Heidi are going "extremely well", according to the team from Kalima, the translation arm of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. The book, which was translated into Arabic from German last year, went on sale for the first time in the UAE at the opening Tuesday of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. It had sold far more than expected, said Dr Ali bin Tamim, Kalima's project manager.

"We won't release exact figures until the end of the fair but a huge amount of books have been sold so far - more than we thought. Heidi is now one of our bestsellers," he said. "We chose this title because it is a story of hope and courage and is a simple story of a girl which is suitable for readers from every country. The illustrations are beautiful and we knew it would be popular." Peter Stamm, the Swiss author who adapted the original version of Heidi into a children's picture-book in 2008, was at the fair signing copies of the book.

"It is a beautiful thought that children in such a faraway country from the Swiss Alps will now be able to read my book," he said. "I was surprised by the amount of young people who were already familiar with it. It just shows that the story of Heidi is universal." The new adaptation of Heidi, written by Stamm and illustrated by the Swiss painter Hannes Binder, takes the essence of Johanna Spyri's original story of an orphaned girl who is adopted by her grandfather, who lives in solitude in the Swiss Alps. She is sent away to Frankfurt, in Germany, and must struggle to return to her beloved mountains.

Stamm said he edited the tale to make it more universal."In the original there were many religious references, as Johanna Spyri was a strict Protestant," he said. "I decided to take them out and add more facts about the environment and the place she was growing up in. "I think all children respond to the book because it works on one of the most basic fears - losing one's parents. No matter where they come from, I think all children relate to that."

Fatima Mohammed, 35, a mother of three, said her children had seen the animated version on television. "They watched the cartoon and they loved the story," she said. "I am buying them the book in Arabic so that they can read it too." Aleya al Nuami, 11, said she liked the illustrations. "The pictures are very nice," she said. "I like reading but I especially like it when you can see the people in the book."

Dr bin Tamim said he hoped the book would soon be available via the emirate's mobile library service - Kitab Bus - which was launched last year. @Email:aseaman@thenational.ae