A heartening story out of Iraq, by Peter Graff of Reuters:

“We have a saying: Cairo writes. Beirut prints. Baghdad reads,” says Abdul-Wahab Mizher al-Radi, proprietor of the House of Scientific Books, one of countless bookshops crammed along Baghdad’s Mutanabi Street.

Reading books, buying books and discussing books are the defining pleasures of being a Baghdad intellectual, and for generations the life of the mind has orbited around this lane, the booksellers’ market of the Iraqi capital.

Four years ago, in a blow felt deeply by Iraq’s intelligentsia, a car bomb killed 26 people here. Now, the street is again open, guarded and seemingly safe, and jammed every Friday with students, professors and professionals…

Thanks, Eric!


  1. From this article:
    “There’s a serious problem today with the Arab youth, in expressing themselves in Arabic.”
    Question :”Why?”
    Salman Masalha: “Because of the language, that great rift between colloquial and literary Arabic. In order to explain a complex idea, you need high language, not the language of the souq. You can’t express a complicated idea using the language of the souq. If you take young people, let’s say eighth-grade Arab [children], and their French, or Jewish Israeli, counterparts, you will discover the discrepancy in self-expression. Because he does not know the language of thought, the Arab pupil runs into a big problem. Thus it is in the entire Arab world.
    “The Arab world does not read. According to various reports, the Arab world is largely illiterate. Illiteracy in the Arab world is not 50% like it says in the reports. I say that it is over 80%. Practically speaking, even those defined as not illiterate because they completed eight years of schooling, I consider illiterate. In this century, anyone who finishes elementary school can’t really read.
    “A book selling 5,000 copies across the Arab world is a rare achievement. The average book published in Israel sells more copies than a successful book in the entire Arab world. This also has to do with the economic situation. Reading books is a privilege for people who have spare time and money. The poverty that sweeps the Arab world leaves the individual struggling for survival his whole life. How is he supposed to read a book? He must bring food for his children, his family.”

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