There is vivid interest in the growth of Arabic science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels — among Arab readers, scholars, and readers abroad. Among the emerging SF novelists is Emirati writer Noura Noman:

This Monday, I saw on the “World SF Blog” an interview with Noura Noman about her debut novel, Ajwan. 

In it, Noura said she’s been holding off on an English translation, which is already complete but unpublished. She said:

And while all my friends are urging me to publish it in English, I cannot do so too soon. The problem we have in this part of the region is that our teens are reading English and almost no Arabic. The whole idea behind Ajwan was to provide Arabic content for teens. My 17-year-old daughter read it in Arabic and liked it. Three young ladies of close age tweeted to me saying it was the first…

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I’ve been discussing translations of popular science books into Arabic. It appears that, at least for Carl Sagan’s books, there’s been more activity than even the organization which owns the rights to these books knows. Read the rest of this entry »

Virtually all books about evolution—along with more than 100 other titles from other fields—have apparently disappeared in recent months from the selection of popular science books for sale by the Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK), the country’s main science funding agency.
Read full article.

19th c. CE Translation of Medicine into Arabic


Edward Said once called Denys Johnson-Davies “the leading Arabic-English translator of our times.”

In a recent interview at the AUC Legacy Gallery, Johnson-Davies brushed off this praise. He said that for many years he was, after all, the only Arabic-English translator.

When Johnson-Davies arrived in Egypt in 1945, he said he found here a literature that “nobody [in the Anglophone world] knew about.” This was what attracted him.

“I was a sort of dictator of the field, which I enjoyed, actually.”

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I am particularly inspired by the combination of my disappointment with developments in Egypt in late November 2012 and my excitement reading E.O. Wilson’s The Future of Life.

  • Is there a lack of popular science literature in Arabic in a format accessible to significant segments of the population?
  • If so, what texts and what formats would reach the target population?
  • What resources are necessary to produce these media?
  • Is the benefit to be gained worth the resources to be expended?

I am not qualified to translate these books. I’ve never studied science in Arabic. I’ve been racking my brain trying to figure out how to translate anthropocentrism.

Could transforming these books into abridged audio books, accessible in 10-15 minute segments which could be serialized in radio broadcasts and free podcasts, be the best way to introduce these books to wider audiences?

Maybe crowdsourcing could provide the funding. Or even US government grants? Couldn’t one Predator drone pay for Guns, Germs and Steel and Pale Blue Dot? Wouldn’t adoption of the ideas in these books do more for US security than killing some “militant” and the women and children who got in the way? [2013-Feb-12 – Pale Blue Dot has an apparently unauthorized translation into Arabic whose scan is also being distributed freely as an Adobe file.]

I’ve not searched a lot yet, but here’s the beginning of a list of potential resources and partners.

I’m using Delicious to keep track of resources which might help. If you wish to add something to this, either send me the link or create the public Delicious link yourself and include this tag: TranslatingPopularScienceToArabic

List of Arabic language publishers