A (satiric) collage*
What do you know about how people live in Cairo or Beirut or Riyadh?
The Middle East has a bad reputation when it comes to books; nowhere else do so few people read them. Statistics show that most Arabs do not read more than six minutes per year and children do not visit libraries or book clubs.
Compounding this is the dearth of translated works, which limits the extent to which the global conversation seeps into the Arab world, hindering intellectual curiosity, access to knowledge and development. In fact, it found that in the past 1,000 years only about 10,000 books have been translated into Arabic – equivalent to the number of books translated in Spain each year.
There are still plenty of pious women around who wear a veil or headscarf.
But what about literature? There will be good books and not so good ones, just as with American fiction. But the great novel of the Arab spring has yet to be published.
It is no accident that Arab countries are mucking up democracy, and it is no accident that Japan and Germany have the No. 1 and No. 2 carmakers. It is too soon to say that the Arab Spring is gone, never to resurface. But the Arab Winter has clearly arrived.
Good art, like revolutionary change, takes time.
*Sentences (and headline) borrowed in their entirety from:
The Economist: Revolution between hard covers
The New Yorker: Found in Translation
The Peninsular Qatar: Survey finds poor reading habit among children
The Media Line: Obstacles to Reading
NY Daily News: Autumn Settles Over Arab Spring
Inside Story: On the edge of the Arab Spring
And, more importantly:
Debunking the “myth of the six minutes”: In al-Akhbar
Debunking the myth that “in the past 1,000 years only X novels have been translated, which means Arabs are dumb”:
ArabLit: Translation is Not Dialogue
RAYA: Yasmina Jraissati
Al Masry Al Youm: Richard Jacquemond