Thursday, July 13, 2006

Aleph, beth, gemail (08 March 2005)

I have just lost everything I wrote into this blog entry, and I am not happy. Writing doesn’t come easily to me these days, not with the constant pain I am in. But I won’t be beaten into submission by someone’s incompetency. Server Error my a***, 20six!

Ok, so what was I about. Yes, I have just finished reading a delectably written book on the history of alphabet. Alpha Beta: How 26 Letters Changed the World by John Man is no academically boring textbook. It takes us to the origins of writing, starting with scratches on bones and stones, to Sumer, Egypt, Phoenicia, then via the Greeks to Etruscans and ultimately Romans. The book is wittily written, with lots of fascinating stories about archaeologists battling thieves in Southern Egypt for the quickly disappearing evidence of first ever letters (not pictographs); of how the Korean language came into being as an act of a single king who had a vision of his nation reading, of Etruscans and a Scottish academic hooligan who resurrected them, of Homer and Serbian bards, and many, many more.

The fact that I have not written for a while about any books doesn’t mean that I have not been reading. It’s just that life has been hectic, with France calling at 10 PM and asking if they could get something translated by 3 PM THEIR time (which is 4 AM MY time), and similar. But I have been reading, I swear. I have finished another book on disappearing languages by Mark Abley that left me with more questions than answers. Foremost among these was “Is English a virus?”. But I will have to leave Abley to another blog entry.

William Darylmple’s From the Holy Mountain: A Journey Among the Christians of the Middle East is another fantastic book by a man who vini and vidi, not just wrote another piece of crap about the Middle East. His journey showcased the often tragic plight of Armenian, Palestinian, Lebanese and Palestinian Christians without zealotry and prejudice. Besides, it was so full of history that it forced me to go back to reading about Byzantium. The result was that I got myself John J. Norwich’s trilogy on the Byzantine Empire, of which part iii arrived miraculously before parts i and ii. Amazon works in mysterious ways J

Talking of shopping, just a few weeks ago I finally managed to obtain a copy of Oizerman’s Problems in the History of Philosophy, the first book ever that I translated into Arabic in my life for the then Soviet publishing giant Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga. I have lost the manuscript when I had to leave “home”. It is stashed somewhere safely in a friend’s container in a sub-saharan country in Africa, feeding termites. At least they will end up being intelligent, left-winged termites. Holding the book in my hands took me 20 years back and ever since I have been itching for a publisher in armor, on a white horse (with a chequebook in the saddle) who will give me a book to translate. I wouldn’t mind doing a Bernard Lewis, for the edification of the Arab world ;-) I even visualize this on my nightly tug-of-war-heel-leave that-heel walks.

After all, Dilbert’s creator Scott Adams in his hilarious The Dilbert Future: Thriving on Business Stupidity in the 21st Century tells of how he managed to visualize himself into a syndicated cartoonist while still chained to a cubicle in some corporate madhouse. He used to write affirmations, 15 lines every day, of what he wanted to achieve.

“A well-endowed publisher will pay me to translate a Lewis”. Doesn’t look bad. Looks better than panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie. Can I have bacon with that, please, Allah?

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