View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Reading and Knowledge in the UAE

Knowledge to Be Driven by Reading
In late October at the Knowledge Conference in Dubai, when His Highness, Shaikh Mohammed, Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai announced the foundation of the “Knowledge Complex, he spoke about the important work of translating knowledge from its foreign sources in to Arabic, training translators, developing machine translation programmes to enhance translation activities from and into Arabic and financially supporting Arabic publishing houses.

This was a ground-breaking announcement as many people had been shocked when, in 2003, a UN report announced that only 330 books from other languages were translated into Arabic annually; and that, in the last 1,100 years, only 10,000 books have ever been translated into Arabic—the same number Spain translates into Spanish in a single year.

Kalima Announces 100 Books
Since Shaikh Mohammed, Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s announcement the Kalima (Arabic for ‘word’) project based in Abu Dhabi has announced a list of 100 books (see below) as part of its contribution towards achieving these goals.

The list does not include many of the best sellers in recent years, however, Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner makes the list. Some immediate discussion and debate on the first 100 books in the Kalima project can be found in Boyd Tonkin’s ‘Two Cultures, One Language’, The Independent, 22 November 2007.

The Challenge of Illiteracy
It takes only a few visits to the banks of the UAE to notice the many people who ‘sign’ their deposit or withdrawal forms with their fingerprint or when one flies internationally, the number of people who ask others to fill in their Landing Card.

In his ground-breaking speech Shaikh Mohammed, Bin Rashid Al Maktoum was not inattentive to this major challenge as he said: “How are we [the Arab region] to cope with this change [when] the rate of illiteracy is still the highest in the world?”

While many of the ‘knowledge’ initiatives have to do with scholarships and assistance for tertiary students the best place to start is by overhauling and ensuring the highest standard of education to pre-school and primary schools in the UAE. Not only will this build a solid foundation of literacy but it will address the other fundamental challenge which is tackling the love of reading.

The Challenge of Motivation
It would be interesting to test high school and university students, not only in the UAE but in different countries of the world to see how many books they have read that appear on the Kalima 100 list. Test yourself!

Then, just assume that the reading of this Literary Top 100 will deepen our learning and spark a new House of Wisdom (Dar al-Hikma) leading to another scientific and intellectual awakening of the Arabs and Muslims. How ever does one motivate people to read just one of these books, let alone to complete the entire canon? To a generation being nurtured on reading not much more than an email, a reply on Facebook or an SMS message, this is perhaps the greatest challenge.

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: One Thousand and One Nights, كتاب ألف ليلة وليلة Alf layla wa layla

The Kalima Project's first translations
The Acharnians/The Knights, Aristophanes
The Aeneid, Virgil
A Briefer History of Time, Hawking
The Complete Odes and Epodes, Horace
Greek Anthology, Archilochus, Alcaeus, Anacreon, and Simonides
Helen/Cyclops, Euripides
Poems, Du Fu (Tu Fu)
The Progeny, Sophocles
Galeni Opera Omnia/Corpus Medicorum Graecorum, Galen
Palimpsest, Archimedes
Ancilla to the Pre-Socratic Philosophers: A Complete Translation of the Fragment at Diels, Various
Film Form, Eisenstein
In Praise of Folly, Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus
Dialectic of Enlightenment, Adorno, Horkheimer
The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, John Maynard Keynes
Canzoniere, Petrarch
The Complete Essays of Montaigne Michel Eyquem de Montaigne, Montaigne
Kokoro, Natsume Soseki
Middlemarch, George Eliot
The New Life, Dante Alighieri
Paradise Regained, Milton
Sonnets to Orpheus, Rilke
Troilus and Criseyde, Geoffrey Chaucer
Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, Isaac Newton
Sidereus Nuncius; Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems; Two New Sciences, Galileo Galilei
The Ethics Of Spinoza: The Road to Inner Freedom, Spinoza
Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast, Bruno
Leviathan, Hobbes
Logic, Hegel
Logical Investigations, Husserl
Art History: vol. 1, Stokstad
The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, Lewis
Inside Music, Haas
Towards a New Architecture, Le Corbusier
A History of Architectural Theory, Kruft
Ecology, Community and Lifestyle: Outline of an Ecosophy, Næss
The Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers, Minds, and the Laws of Physics, Penrose
Godel, Escher, Bach (20th Anniversary Ed), Hofstader
The Age of Extremes, Hobsbawm
The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World, Greenspan
The Birth of Europe, Le Goff
The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Gibbon
The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, Watson
The Films in My Life, Truffaut
Freud: A Life for Our Times, Gay
Islamic Science and the Making of the European Renaissance, Saliba
The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11, Wright
The Struggle for Master of Europe, A J P Taylor
The Anatomy of Revolution, Brinton
Capitalism and Freedom: Fortieth Anniversary Edition, Friedman
Competitive Strategy, Porter
Kafka on the Shore, Murakami
The Executive in Action: Managing for Results, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Effective Executive, Drucker
The Halo Effect and Eight Other Business Delusions that Deceive Managers, Rosenzweig
Making Globalization Work, Stiglitz
The Middle East (Sociology of Developing Societies), Asad
Reading Capital, Althusser, Rancière
Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour, Von Neumann, Morgenstern
The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Hoffer
What is Globalization, Beck
The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation: vol. 1, M T Anderson
The Case for Literature, Gao Xingjian
Collected Stories, Singer
The First Man, Camus
The Higher Power of Lucky, Patron
The Inheritance of Loss, Desai
The Kite Runner, Hosseini
The Pickup, Gordimer
Pipi Longstocking, Lindgren
Selected Poems, Milosz
Something to Answer For, P H Newby
The Sound and the Fury, Faulkner
Stranger in a Strange Land, Heinlein
The Western Canon, Bloom
The Word, The Text, and The Critic, Edward Said
The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence, Kurzweil
Atomic Theory and the Description of Nature; Discussion with Einstein on Epistemological Problems in Physics, Niels Bohr
Cellular Automata and Complexity, Wolfram
The Chemical Bond: Structure and Dynamics, Zewail
Cracking the Genome: Inside the Race to Unlock Human DNA, Davies
Dreams of a Final Theory: The Scientist's Search for the Ultimate Laws of Nature, Weinberg
The Eighth Day of Creation, Judson
Engines of Creation, Drexler
Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind, Buss
The Feynman Lectures on Physics including Feynman's Tips on Physics: The Definitive and Extended Edition, Feynman
In Search of Schrodinger's Cat, Gribbin
On the Meaning of Relativity, Einstein
Origin and Development of the Quantum Theory, Planck
Punctuated Equilibrium, Gould
Physical Principles of the Quantum Theory, Heisenberg
The Principles of Quantum Mechanics, Dirac
The Scientist as Rebel, Dyson
Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, 25th Anniversary Edition, Wilson
Uncertainty: Uncertainty, Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and the Struggle for the Soul of Science, Lindley
Difference and Repetition, Deleuze
The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis, Lacan
The Future of Human Nature, Habermas
Il Segno, Eco
Margins of Philosophy, Derrida
Charlemagne and Mohammed: The Arab Roots of Capitalism, Heck