Well, you know the oft quoted statement that the sum total of books translated into Arabic is less than the number of books translated in Greece? Or as a matter of fact, the number of books translated into Arabic for the past 1000 years is less than the number of books translated in Spain in ONE year. (btw, dont get too excited and feel all superior, check out these comment, and this comment.)
While you might well ask, why translate when you have huge productions of books in the local language itself such as we have in the case of English. Well, yes, one would expect that if that was indeed the case. So what exactly is being published in the Arab lands? Here's an interesting view.
I found the suggestion that PG Wodehouse's books be translated into Arabic hilarious. I love that man, but the chances of that translation happening is, in the words of the great man, "has about as much chance as a one-armed blind man in a dark room trying to shove a pound of melted butter into a wild cat's left ear with a red-hot needle." See the comment here which was a rather sad exposition on publishing in Morocco (and as a matter of fact, across all of Arab world).
Reading this comment, I agree. In my travels around the country, the number of book shops were way too little but I did not realise that Kuwait does not have a bookstore at all. I did not see any bookstores in Riyadh, Bahrain, Jeddah, Dahran, Sharjah or perhaps I was not going to the right places. Sad. Same with Dubai, that great playground of the rich and famous, very sad collection of books, the little there is. Some time back, I was waiting in Dubai Airport and went looking to purchase some books, and couldn't find any. None!.
But it will not improve if this happens. I quote: Egypt has banned a number of Western and secular books from the 40th Cairo International Book Fair, including works by Czech author Milan Kundera and Morocco’s Mohamed Choukri, publishers said.....Egypt’s State Information Service says that the Cairo book fair has "over the past years become a great cultural event, and a spacious scene for conducting dialogue among intellectuals, men of letters and artists."
The funny thing is, here's a comment from somebody who attended the book fair. I quote: "was there today and I was very shocked at the way it has degenerated. I still remember times not so far gone, when one used to go to enjoy being there, the sight and smell of books and the variety, when one could browse books in peace and not be disturbed by the nashaz sounds from various loudspeakers in various exhibits, and sadly a lot of them Qur'an, as if to prove the piety by being loudest.....Though I got most of the books I was looking for, I went home feeling disillusioned, disgusted, abused and defiled and I dont think I will be going there again."
Long way to go, very long way go to.