Egypt to publish Israeli novels for first time
Fri, Jun 12, 2009

CAIRO - Egypt will publish Arabic translations of novels by renowned Israeli writers Amos Oz and David Grossman for the first time, a culture ministry official told AFP on Thursday.

"I hope to have signed an agreement with their English and French publishers by early July, without going via the Israeli publishers," said Gaber Asfur, head of the centre for translations, which is part of the culture ministry.

Culture Minister Faruq 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 said.

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.

Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace deal with Israel, but it has since rejected cultural normalisation in protest at Israel's continued occupation of Arab land and its treatment of the Palestinians.

"In Egypt, we feel you can't dance and sing together when you see the bloody daily attacks against the Palestinian people," Hosni has said, adding that "once there is peace, it will be an entirely different matter."

Alaa Aswani, who wrote the renowned "Yacoubian Building" which was turned into a successful film, has also refused to have his book translated into Hebrew because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Asfur 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 said.

Asfur said 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.


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