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Columbia Takes a Lead Role in Annual Big Read




Media contact:  LaVenia J. LaVelle, 212-854-8336,



Columbia Takes a Lead Role in Annual Big Read


Programs to encourage reading and cultural understanding

will focus this year on a great work of fiction from Egypt



NEW YORK, March 2, 2009 — In partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the U.S. State Department and Arts Midwest, Columbia University will host an extensive local component of the Big Read, an annual initiative designed to restore reading to the center of American culture by encouraging communities to come together to read the same book. The theme for 2009 is Big Read Egypt/U.S.


Programming kicks off at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 5, with a reception and talk by Columbia professor Noha Radwan. She will speak about this year’s chosen book, The Thief and the Dogs by Egyptian Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz. A screening of the 1964 film adaptation of the book, Chased by the Dogs, will follow. These events take place in the Low Memorial Library Rotunda on Columbia’s Morningside Heights campus, Broadway at

West 116th Street
in Manhattan.


“This is what great universities do,” said Marcia Sells, associate vice president for Government and Community Affairs. “They bring people together around ideas, and reading a work by a globally recognized author like Mahfouz is key to these exchanges. We are delighted to be a leader of this second international Big Read.”


Many events are scheduled for students during their school days, but the following events are open to the public and free of charge. Unless noted, they occur on or near campus.


·        Celebrating Mahfouz: Film Screenings   Saturday, March 7, 12:00 Noon – 5:00 p.m.,

Lifetime Screening Room, 511 Dodge Hall, north entrance

·        Egypt Dances: Lecture and Film Screening   Wednesday, March 11, 11:30 a.m.– 12:30 p.m., Lifetime Screening Room, 511 Dodge Hall, north entrance

·        Mahfouz's Metamorphoses: Bringing the Egyptian World to the English language

Thursday, March 12, 6:00 – 7:00 p.m., Deutsches Haus,

420 West 116th Street

·        Parallel Lives: Said Mahran, Flores Forbes, and Jamal Joseph   Friday, March 20, 6:00 – 7:30 p.m., Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Memorial and Education Center, 3940 Broadway at

165th Street

·        Lecture on Egyptian Archaeology: From the Stone Age to Rome: Excavating in an Egyptian Oasis   Tuesday, March 24, 11:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Davis Auditorium, Morris A. Schapiro Center for Engineering and Physical Science Research

·        The Thief and the Dogs Dance Performance   Tuesday, March 31, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m., The Ailey Studios,

405 West 55th Street
9th Avenue
. Troy Powell, associate artistic director of Ailey II will premiere a new work based on the book  Registration required


Columbia is one of four U.S. institutions receiving grants to develop programming for the Big Read Egypt/U.S. The university’s Office of Government and Community Affairs is organizing the programs along with its Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.


“Cultural exchange needs to play a more important role in international relations,” said Dana Gioia, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. “And there is no better way to understand another nation than to read one of its great books. We are delighted to join with the State Department in the Big Read Egypt/U.S. and to introduce one of Egypt’s and the world’s greatest writers to American readers.”


The endowment presents the Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The Big Read Egypt/U.S. is part of the State Department’s Global Cultural Initiative, a multi-faceted international cultural diplomacy effort characterized by partnerships with U.S. government and private sector cultural agencies and institutions.


Launched in 10 communities in 2005, the Big Read has grown this year to include more than 400 projects worldwide. Previous collective reading projects have selected The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Russian writer Leo Tolstoy and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. To learn more about Big Read events, program information, a complete list of Big Read novels and application guidelines, visit or


A leading academic and research university, Columbia University continually seeks to advance the frontiers of knowledge and to foster a campus community deeply engaged in understanding and addressing the complex global issues of our time. Columbia’s extensive public service initiatives, cultural collaborations, and community partnerships help define the University’s underlying values and mission to educate students to be both leading scholars and informed, engaged citizens. Founded in 1754 as King’s College, Columbia University in the City of New York is the fifth oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S.

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