Asia Society presents; 77
The Asia Society presents. This is a series of interviews with authorities on Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. Your host on this transcribed series is a noted author and award winning a broadcaster. Lee Graham. It seems that one of the differences between east and west is this in the east or oriental Asian countries. There has been a greater tradition for the oral for the spoken word but in the West we have put our great emphasis is on the written word. So we are more attuned to books and in Asia perhaps and more attuned to stories to legends to the imparting of information from one generation to another. Perhaps the tween is beginning to meet now because more and more books are going from the West particularly from the United States to the east and the organization which is profoundly responsible for this is the Franklin book programs. The president of that marvelous organization is our guest on this program and
he is Carol G. Bowen. Mr. Bowen has been president since 969 before that he's had about two decades of experience in experience in publishing and editing. Now Mr. Bowen is a presumptuous of us to think that we have to send more books to agents. Is it resent it or is it welcome. I suspect they're welcome whenever and in whatever form they arrive. I would like to begin by picking up your theme of the role of print and if I may distinguish between in Western and Asian cultures. They will be not so consciously held heritage of the Western world is approximately four centuries of continuous and expanded use of moveable
type and leading to the prevalence and availability of print the printed word. Following. The invention of movable type. That came about a century later something very close to widespread literacy. General literacy not so much literary understanding and comprehension of literary text but. The capacity to reckon with. Forms of print pamphlets broadsheets handbills print in the the. Most exposed sense. And from that it was an easy step. Poor print to move into tutorial or other roles and. Religious education political pamphleteering political. Education if you please. So for the United States colonies is law it's criminal professors Teachers College Columbia as recently
pointed out. Practically speaking the United States had close to a century of functional literacy. We can use that technical and much debated time. Before a widespread free public education even came to pass. Better sequence in mind because I think it's important to remember that movable type came the end of the fifteenth century by the mid 17th century. Print was pretty widely consumed in the colonies and it was only by. The 19th century that widespread public education and elementary and secondary levels was became a fact. So bear in mind then that. First we used textbooks we bought them from England and colonial days but we also came in with an 18th century to produce some of our own McGuffey's reader. Being that
sort of cultural Bible that. So many major intellectual and political figures of the 19th century gained their private education from it was not on the widespread availability of print but the implicit use of that understanding that that print could be used for self instruction. And here I have to cite the contributions of our. Namesake if you please Ben Franklin who was not the first nor the last of a whole host of distinguished Americans who really educated themselves from available print from the exercise of performing their craft of reading the material that they were setting and type of becoming an author in order to become a publisher as well as printer. Indeed his self-education was the subject of a considerable part of his writing. My points in summary beginning points are two that the
American tradition of the United States tradition at least simply presume the existence of print available print and built. This availability this habit of using print into its educational institutions. So that it was as unthinkable to try and run a school without textbooks or to for an individual to remain lettered to the absence of self-instruction as in Asian culture print was a novelty. Let me say just a word about this. I have enormous regard for the legacies that separate Asian cultures as they come more and more to our Western eyes. Understanding and it's by no means a presumption on my part that there is a necessary superiority to print dominated
western culture over the distinct and accomplished oral tradition of the East. But they're simply different mechanisms for. Handling the transfer of learning and the legacy of culture from one generation to another. It's rather difficult to. I should perhaps have prepared myself to have. Addressed these differences what I print for example is very easily stored very easily transported. It's about 5 generations very well so that the legend doesn't necessarily get changed. But out of the Asian countries we have print might not have been as strong a tradition as it is in the West. Still you have had the written languages of India. And those of that of China. Calligraphy Yes is what one must contrast with print.
Yes but. And been there and carry out much content without any question. The interesting differences as you know the Chinese invented virtually everything that's right including my money Russia. Yes. Yes print in contrast with calligraphy is to my understanding almost entirely a function of the complexity of their alphabet. As a Chinese It had a relatively simple alphabet such as ours in the Roman and the Greek. I have no doubt whatsoever that they would have been cranking presses much much earlier than. They did and far more pervasively than they than they. Oh I can stick but it has been a drawback in that not everyone could not have and could master it quite the elite that could match the calligraphy. They were considered authors with a not very much so. And the tradition still survives as you know. Yeah there is a heated debate in one of the Franken. Well perhaps I'm getting ahead of the story but I'm one of the Franken
countries we are around Pakistan. We had a spare didn't fascinating debate last. Year as to whether an encyclopedia The first will have been done in the country on this scale should in fact be printed that is to say set and type in credit or whether it should be written in calligraphy the entire work hands and hand written people really would find out how we think. If I look through the catalog of the programs at the Franklin book programs I see that you are in a number of countries not all of them Asian but we might as well mention all of them. I came across Afghanistan India East Pakistan west Pakistan Indonesia. What countries would you add to that. I think we have to subtract one. We are not in India. We have never had it and if you are an officer you know we have interest in me as I
see the first office was open. Cairo and 152 and from there it spread more or less eastward to the Muslim world. Not by design but rather as the. Almost as the panorama routes rant. Cairo to Beirut to Tehran with us short term office at Baghdad from Tehran to Kabul. There's a link and that is to say Afghanistan was really a project that was originally begun in Tehran. Then the horror in Dhaka. It's essential you know to have two offices and or to respect two very different cultures in the two countries that in fact are regions that are combined in one country Pakistan because the language of the West is the official language of the West is overdue and the official language of the East has been
golly. We've respected this difference by having offices in each and then Jakarta as you say has been one of our planning offices after. These are all started in the first three years of Franklin's life and 50 to 1950 to 1955 from 160 to 65 and a number of sub-Sahara offices were ventured three in Nigeria and one in British of what formerly was British East Africa Kenya Uganda and Tanzania. With headquarters in Nairobi all of those unfortunately that have well in the case of the. East African offices that their mission was completed the office was closed in case of the Western the Nigerian offices I regret to say that the civil war effectively curtailed our operations there for a period of two or three years. But they will return and when it's still open in Latin America
we've had the benefit of poor presences which were established by one of my predecessors. A very knowledgeable man who sensibly and suggested that since there were centers of considerable publishing development in Latin America what one should do is help them in Mexico. Them being the publishers of Mexico the publishers of Brazil and the publishers of Argentina organized their own national programs rather patterned after Franklin. Determine their own needs in the import books or in the translation of books into local languages. And then come to us and we will try to help them in this country find funding for their programs. That's the way it's worked out and it's been a. Very. Satisfactory arrangement. Mr. Bowen What would you say is your primary purpose to take books which are chosen I suppose by an editorial board have them translated
into the language of a particular region or country and then ship them there so that people can imbibe knowledge which they might not have otherwise. Is that the case that that states very well the founding purpose which continues to be one of our important concerns today. People pay for the books. Answer the question more fully perhaps than it wants but I think it should be understood from the beginning. Concern for translation of American books in the local languages where they were otherwise not available not accessible. We found ourselves rather quickly in a whole host of ancillary activities trying to improve the quality of local printing and production trying to work with local booksellers distributors and so on to effect greater or more widespread distribution. Trying to enhance the skills of local publishing community or trying to help.
Teachers become authors of textbooks trying to help in the creation of children's book trying to train artists in the preparation of illustrations for children's books and instructional materials. In short we very quickly moved beyond translation so if you ask me for one broad definition of what Franklin seeks to do in the developing world today the developing nations of the world today. I think I'd have to say that what we're really trying to help them do is to see how they can utilize print in a more effective way in a way that is consonant with their traditions their oral tradition. But that has some of the virtues and blessings that we've you know learned to enjoy today. The studying the instrument of print. Since you are a nonprofit organization we wonder how you stay.
How is the L.A. How do you stay alive. I'm not in business yes. But you must have your expenses covered. We beg CBS and I'm sure you do it. Thank you I do thank goodness. How about the people who receive the books in there any payment for these books. First the procedure is something as follows. Originally we were 100 percent supported by the United States government through the Department of State and subsequently through the United States Information Agency. That support became partial rather than total in about one thousand fifty five or fifty six. And since that time has declined to a very small part of our total support. We were significantly assisted in African and Latin American programs by the Ford Foundation which gave us a sizable Grant in the early 60s and over a period of time they've helped us in other ways. Our principal support at the
moment comes about equally from three sources. One is the American businesses including publishers booksellers manufacturers book manufacturers and the international business community corporations banks and so on who see in our work a contribution to the improved levels and quality of education in the country in the countries in which we work and support our work I think for that reason. That's one source of support a second source of support is that we do perform some contract services for these host countries themselves. For example we have a contract to manage the publication of all the primary textbooks in Iran some 16. Going to closer to 20 million units of text book a year now I produced under our supervision and in Afghanistan we have a contract for managing the ministry of Education's own printing plant which produces some point five million units of books a year. So we get some contact performance of the books
sent I didn't mean it was something that you know the cancellation You know I know I still on the books always requested before you send them. It's almost always that we know I'm sorry that's a two way street. Managers all of all of our Franklin overseas employers are host country nationals. We have no Americans on our payroll overseas in prominent roles. Our Indonesian manager of Franklin Jakarta is an Indonesian national a very gifted man in the house and should be like. And. If we were as we work with awesome in translation roles and I'll be specific about that for a moment. House intends to identify needs he consult his publishers. He consults his teachers scholars. He talks with his ministers and acquaintances from counterparts in the Ministry of Education. He also talks with the donor agencies that is to say the western development
patrons the Ford Foundation the World Bank representative you know represented the United Nations Development Program and so on. And he finds out what their perceived needs are for. For books indigenously created and produced or translated and produced or even English language material. He then lets us know and we make the rounds of thanks to the offices of one of my colleague Dr. Ross. We try and create responsive check lists or bibliographies of usable titles. That is frequently reviewed by Mr. Shealey in Indonesia. He will then request titles. You know a selection of titles from that list. We will then go to the publishers and ask for copies and ask for if the rights are available for translation. We pay for these right you do we do.
We pay something on the order of I think we pay the same thing to us i.e. does $100 in language something like that. Right then the payment is a nominal lot it's a nominal one and I was thinking just to follow an example Nancy Wilson Ross who's one of the trustee at the age of just Jackie who's the author of a number of notes and I saw one of her books back several lists in different languages. If we use her as an example you would go to her publisher. Pay for the right of the right to have a withheld. Oh yes sometimes one payment. McGraw-Hill For example I think quite soundly has never responded to any solicitations we passed a law for the rights to Paul Samuelson's basic college textbook in economics. These rights are enormously valuable and the amount that we could afford or the amount that the publishers who the Indonesian publishers we are representing effect. Could afford would be token. Would they withhold it giving a different line which would benefit a part of the world which we
say we'd like to help. Well I think it would undercut the sale of the English language edition significantly but would you be sending the book over in English. No you drive it would be nice and we'd be translating it there but I think I must defend my colleagues in the position of my colleagues in commercial publishing here. Their concern and their author's concern is twofold Number one they want penetration they want the widest possible exposure the greatest you know their contribution to learning must be a spread that's widely broadcast as possible but on the other hand they are responsible to their stockholders and they have a commitment to protect a resource just the way. Any other resource should be considered. Still if it's not in competition book I think into Indonesia you think it's in competition for the first time in English so that it would detract from their resources or assets I think almost certainly they would sell many fewer copies of the English language edition and they would license the rights to it
when we had the same hipbone and that the assets take precedence over the desire to disseminate learning. In fact I think there is always a tension to be observed in a sardine whose flavor it's usually resolved by the proprietor because the rights are his and we come and solicit Yes but we don't want to be mean to anybody. The fact remains that there are many books which are translated into what language most books translated Arabic and you program. Historically that's correct we translate it twenty seven hundred and fifty books into some dozen languages. He's one of the most widely spoken languages and Arabic population of the Arabic speaking continent so to speak is enormous. I suppose next from markets would be Indonesian and Malaysian where there are perhaps a hundred fifty million speakers Arabic and must be close to 200 million.
And so on down I would guess been Galli is probably the next I just heard you and Persian perhaps about equal and then below us in their original English are also exported to countries where English is but yes that's what I did on Noah. I'm glad you raised the point I wanted to say. A modest correction of your opening remark that the American publishing community's own contribution to the to the Asians awareness of Western literature is the prime one. Relatively few books are translated I checked the USGO figures and out of some 60000 titles published in Asian countries in three years only about 4000 were translations from the west. The major source of English of the awareness of Western literature in Asia comes from the export and promotional efforts of the American book publishing community university as well as not for profit as well as for profit publishing the Asian publishing community
itself is a very vigorous one in a local language publication. Japan for example. Publish close to 30000 titles a year you know almost as many as the United States so that I don't wish to overstate the role of translating American cultural products in book form to the Far East. I role is to help where that help is needed in the area in which it's most critically needed is in the level of instructional materials. Could you say offhand in the brief time we have left approximately how many books have been sent to Asian countries since your program began in 1050 can I can do it only by using a figure of speech one of my colleagues able colleagues Bob Taylor once calculated that if all Franklin books were placed end to end in a bookshelf the shelf would reach from Chicago to Denver. That sounds like a long distance to me. Mr. Bowen I want to thank you very much for
being here explaining the work of the Franklin book programs. And in case our listeners would like you have a copy of the annual report which is a very good description of what this program is all about 3000 for what it is without charge and you may have it by giving me your name and address. Our guest has been the president of the Franklin book program. Carol thank you and good bye. That concludes tonight's edition of the Asia Society presents with Lee Graham. The series comes to you through the cooperation of the Asia Society. If you would like to comment on tonight's program or would like further information about the society and how you can participate in its many interesting activities please write to Mrs. Graham at WNYC New York City 100 0 7 and make a note to join us again next week at this time for another edition of the Asia Society presents.
- Asia Society presents
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- Asia Society presents is a series of programs from WNYC and The Asia Society. Through interviews with experts on Asian affairs, the series attempts to strengthen listeners understanding of Asian people and ideas. Episodes focus on specific countries and political, cultural, and historical topics.
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Host: Graham, Leigh
Producing Organization: WNYC
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 69-6-77 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
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- APA: Asia Society presents; 77. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-3j393x0v