Al-Ahram Weekly Online   20 - 26 January 2005
Issue No. 726
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Naguib Mahfouz

Depleted shelves

By Naguib Mahfouz

It is shameful that there are so few celebrated books -- from both our ancient and modern literary heritage -- in bookstores. Many major works are simply out of print and no one seems to care to produce new editions. It is inconceivable that you would enter a British bookstore, ask for a play by Shakespeare, for example, and be told that it is no longer available because it is out of print. Yet that is precisely what happens here when you try to hunt down a volume of poetry by Imri Al-Qais, a play by Ahmed Bakathir or a novel by Youssef El-Sebaai.

In Literary News, Gamal El-Ghitani aired a possible solution. He suggested that the Supreme Council for Culture embark on a project that would ensure that the public can always obtain the books they are looking for, whether from the 10th or the 20th century. With some writers you know which publisher to go to. But this is not the case for the vast majority of contemporary authors. It would, therefore, be useful if we had a single reliable source we could turn to. If not the Supreme Council for Culture, this source could, for example, be the government's official publishing arm, the General Egyptian Book Organisation. The important thing is that our intellectual, literary and cultural legacy remains available.

Based on an interview with Mohamed Salmawy.

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