April 30, 2006

EVEN JUAN COLE FINDS AN ACORN ONCE IN AWHILE (via Pepys):

Barnes & Noble Goes to Baghdad: A brilliant plan to send American books to the Middle East. (Fred Kaplan, April 28, 2006, Slate)

Juan Cole, a blogger and professor of Middle Eastern history at the University of Michigan, has come up with an intriguing idea for how to fill this gap. He wants to hire skilled linguists to translate into Arabic the classic works of American political thought—especially those works that deal with freedom of religion, division of powers, sovereignty of the people, and equal rights. He has in mind the essays and speeches of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Tom Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Martin Luther King Jr., and Susan B. Anthony; a solid history of American Jews and other minority groups; maybe a few good books, written by American historians, about Iraq. Cole also wants to subsidize Middle Eastern publishers to print these books in large numbers and at low prices, and he wants to pay fees to book dealers throughout the region—just as publishers pay Borders and Barnes & Noble here—to display the books prominently.

This isn't just an idea. Cole has established the Global Americana Institute and the Library of Americana Translation Project. Since he outlined the idea in his blog late last year, readers have sent him $13,000. He claims that some foundations are "jumping-up-and-down enthusiastic" to pour in the big bucks, once he obtained the legal status of a nonprofit organization. The federal government just gave him this status two weeks ago. He's filling out the grant applications now. He also recently returned from the Beirut international book fair, where he says several Middle Eastern publishers and dealers expressed great interest in the project (and, no doubt, in the prospect of the money).


Mr. Kaplan didn't work himself into such high dudgeon when an Israeli think tank similarly took it upon itself to translate the great works of Anglo-American liberalism into Hebrew. Of course, one has to not understand de Tocqueville at all to see something wrong with such projects being voluntary citizen initiatives rather than government projects.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 30, 2006 10:17 AM
Comments

Cole stole the idea. Other blooger thought of it first.

I'll place a small bet and say it might be found in Instapundit's archives.

Somebody's got it. Maybe even Roger L. Simon.

Posted by: Sandy P at April 30, 2006 12:09 PM

But did they do it?

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2006 1:42 PM

oj,
google is ready to let anybody do it!
Mike

http://www.terrorismunveiled.com/athena/2006/04/google_arabic_t.html

Posted by: Mike Daley at April 30, 2006 2:05 PM

they were trying to raise money for it.

I remember that.

Posted by: Sandy P at April 30, 2006 7:32 PM

Wasn't there a post here about an Iraqi who wanted to translate the best books from the West into Arabic (I think it was about 4 or 5 months ago)?

It's a great idea, and even if Juan Cole pushes it, he should be supported. Provided, of course, that he doesn't offer his own "translation". But will Cole include Bernard Lewis?

Posted by: ratbert at April 30, 2006 9:23 PM
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