Egyptian Cultural Cold War

Posta: Sundag, 4 oktober, 2009 under Articles
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On Friday BBC published an interesting article by Christian Fraser on Israeli culture influence in Egypt called «Egyptians nervous of Israeli culture». Fraser’s focuses on books and literature and mentions that since the 1960s the Egyptian National Centre for Translation have translated only about ten books from Hebrew (and stopped in 2000).

Fraser also points out that it is not only the state of Egypt that hinders the spread of Israeli culture, but also the Egyptian society, which actually may castigate or even ostracize Egyptian writers traveling to Israel. An example points to Ali Salem who traveled to Israel in 1994 and wrote a book about his stay, but when he returned he was kicked out of the Writer’s Guild and his books remain unread. Salem’s reason for his trip is quoted by Fraser: «I asked myself who are these people and what are they doing? I wanted to find an answer.»

Despite Egypt and Israel’s more troubled past, it is a pity that Egyptian writers who try to find out who these people across the border, with whom they have fought and hated for so long, are met with such resentment. Though this story is about 15 years old, it is still the norm according to Fraser, as he concludes:

In these 30 years of peace between Egypt and Israel there has been collaboration on politics, defence, business and agriculture but when it comes to culture the Egyptians are still mired in the cold war.

Two Israeli books, by David Grossman and Amos Oz, will, however, be translated this year, but from English and by an European publishing  house, according to the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. The Ministry adds that each book will contain «an introduction explaining everything». Despite these all-explaining introductions some are not happy and view the translation as a step towards cultural normalization and «the destruction of a psychological barrier».

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