CAIRO: A culture ministry official has denied reports that Egypt will publish Arabic translations of novels by renowned Israeli writers Amos Oz and David Grossman for the first time.
An official at the head of the translations center Gaber Asfour s office told Daily News Egypt in a telephone interview that a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP) was false.
In an AFP article published Thursday, Asfour was quoted as saying, I hope to have signed an agreement with their English and French publishers by early July, without going via the Israeli publishers, referring to the works of Oz and Grossman.
Asfour also allegedly explained the choice of publishers.
Because we can t deal directly with Israeli publishers, which would cause a scandal in Egypt and the Arab world, we decided to negotiate with European publishing houses, he told AFP, adding that he was looking at publishing short stories by Oz, Grossman s The Yellow Wind about Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and Israeli-occupied West Bank, as well as works by so-called new historians Tom Segev and Avi Shlaim.
Asfour could not be reached for comment.
Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, whose bid to become the next director general of UNESCO has suffered setbacks because of comments he made about burning Israeli books, gave the project the green light, he told AFP.
Only two Israeli books, Iraqi-born Eli Amir s novel Yasmin and a collection of poetry by Druze writer Naim Araidi, have been published in Arabic in Egypt, by a small private publishing house.
Hussein Serag, deputy editor of October magazine who had translated “Yasmine and is currently translating “Farewell Baghdad from the Hebrew, also by Elie Amir.
Serag claimed that “Yasmine was successful and sold well.
“I don’t see a link with Farouk Hosni, said Serag. “I think this is long overdue. That should have happened much earlier. We were occupied by Britain and during the occupation there were translations of works by Charles Dickens and others. It is very strange that the ‘other’ isn’t translated and isn’t known.
“We chose the date of the October 1973 war [Yom Kippur] on the basis of knowledge. Knowledge can only be gained through reading and translation. How else can you gather knowledge?
Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace deal with Israel, but it has since rejected cultural normalization in protest at Israel’s continued occupation of Arab land and its treatment of the Palestinians.
Serag, however, is against this boycott.
“I’m not with the boycott. I’m with translation. Whether we consider Israel a neighbor, enemy or friend, we must know it. They know us – they translate everything.
“I’m against violations committed by Israel and against the Israeli aggression in Gaza but that’s one thing and art is something else. I differentiate between the two, he said.