Launching in Abu Dhabi on November 21, Kalima – “word” in Arabic – is a non-profit initiative which will address the gap left by a deficit in translation into Arabic stretching back 1,000 years.
Seeded by a grant from the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, Kalima will unite publishers, translators, authors and distributors to provide access to writing from around the world to readers in the region.
“The rest of the world enjoys a wealth of domestic and translated writing, why should the Arab world be any different?” said Karim Nagy, chief executive of Kalima.
“Currently in most Arabic countries, ‘great works’ of world literature or academia are only available in their original language, making them inaccessible for most readers. For so many years, Arabic readers have been cut off from great works of world literature and academia – we think it’s time to change that. It’s time to fill the gaps in the Arabic library.”
At its official launch Kalima will announce a list of 100 candidate titles to be translated and published after checking existing translations and acquiring rights. Then each subsequent year, new titles will be selected and translated, with the number increasing as funding grows.
The title selection process has been carefully designed to strike a balance between different literary genres, juxtaposing the works of classic authors with more contemporary writers. The selection will also include academic, business and educational material. The translated titles will be made available throughout the Arab world through traditional and non-traditional book distribution channels.
“Kalima reflects a broader cultural renaissance emerging from the Arab region, including a revived interest in the Arabic language,” said Nagy.
“Through Kalima, we want to give Arabic readers the opportunity to read and enjoy a breadth of quality writing from around the world in their mother tongue. Arabic is a beautifully expressive language, and one that should be more widely celebrated and valued.”
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