Indian-Arab cultural ties are set to blossom when the Arabic translations of some select titles by eminent Indian authors are published here next year.
According to Zikrur Rahman, director of the India Arab Cultural Centre (IACC), a total of 10 titles have been selected till now and approved by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Cultural Heritage (ADACH) for release at the annual Abu Dhabi Book Fair next year.
The books will include both fiction and non-fiction work. Some of the selected titles are ‘The Argumentative Indian’ by Amartya Sen, ‘The Idea of India’ by Sunil Khilnani, ‘The Shade of Swords’ by M.J. Akbar and A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s ‘Wings of Fire’.
Though initially 30 books were targeted for translation, shortage of time made the organisers review their target.
‘Initially we decided to go with 30 (books). Since we don’t have time – the Abu Dhabi Book Fair will be in (the first quarter of) 2009 – we will be releasing fewer books,’ he said.
The seed for this project was sown in March this year when India’s Ambassador to United Arab Emirates (UAE) Talmiz Ahmad broached the issue with ADACH.
While IACC will be doing the translation work, ADACH will be the publisher of these books.
The project is part of a larger ADACH initiative, through its translation work commissioning body Kalima, to provide Arab readers greater access to foreign literature.
‘Back in India, we formed a working group. The working group consisted of publishers, academicians, publishers and a member from the ITPO (Indian Trade Promotion Organization) in order to see that we select those books which are of eminent writers,’ he said.
To a question on the translators selected for the project, he said that every effort has been made to ensure that the soul and the spirit of the books were not lost in translation.
The project is not confined to translation of Indian books alone and a reciprocal project is also being discussed.
According to Rahman, Alqubaisi is very enthusiastic about having Arabic works translated into Indian languages but they were faced with the problem of lack of good translators.
Apart from the translation project, the IACC-ADACH cooperation is also exploring other initiatives to further broaden cultural ties between the two regions.
An international seminar on archival material is also on the anvil.
‘I have already made a concept paper for this. There is huge archival material in Arabic language in India,’ he said.
‘Likewise, we are also planning a seminar in India on understanding Arabic culture before the end of this year.’
He said that such a seminar was needed because there were a number of things about the Arab world that remained unexplained in India.
‘Although there are a large number of Indians who come and work here (in the Arab world), there is no intermingling with Arabs. We need to understand Arab culture which is contemporary,’ said Rahman, a former Indian Foreign Service officer who had widely travelled across the Arab world during his career as a diplomat.