I spent a week and a half in Oman in December and January. Oman is a Gulf state of 3 million people, located to the east of Saudi Arabia. I really enjoyed my trip, meeting people, seeing the dramatic beaches and mountains, and having some of my stereotypes about the region challenged.
I made a few attempts to find local lit while I was there, but I didn’t find anything very interesting in English—either translations or original work. Bookstores featured lots of titles by international writers, but local English-language offerings were limited largely to nonfiction work about the country’s history and economy, coffee table photography books directed at tourists, and a smattering of memoirs by international expats. I’m sure the local Arabic-language literary scene was far richer than what I was seeing, but it was disappointing not to be able to access it. I can understand why there wouldn’t be a large body of translated work in a nation with such a small population.
Geeky book industry humor—I was amused to find a book from an Omani publisher sporting an EAN/ISBN-13 barcode reading
978000000033. Converted to a 10-digit ISBN, that reads as
000000003 if one omits the checksum. The publisher was asserting that their book was something like the third ISBN ever issued, misunderstanding or misusing the ISBN system. (This was presumably the third book they’d published with an EAN barcode.) A web search indicated that Oman doesn’t seem to have a listed ISBN agency, so perhaps local publishers are in a bind, having to use fake ISBNs to work with retailers demanding EAN barcodes.
[Now Reading: The Virgin Fish of Babughat by Lokenath Bhattacharya]Posted by Anirvan