That’s what Publishing Perspectives asked yesterday: Can books change the reputation of a nation? Can their “soft power” shift international perceptions of a nation?
PP is writing here about LéaLA, a Spanish-language book fair that aims to change (stereotypical) perceptions of Mexico. But the same has been said of book fairs in Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and Dubai, and of the four-year-old International Prize for Arabic Fiction, all sponsored by Emirati money.
Of course, Arabs have long been aware of this sort of “soft power.” Having al-Mutanabbi on your side was, after all, a good thing. And, on a grand scale, mass cultural production surely equals power. But, on a smaller scale, who controls these poets and novelists? Who’s to say that they won’t shame your country, open closets, dig up skeletons?
I doubt this is the sort of ambassador Bashar al-Assad wants:
Commentary from Mideast Youth.