Israeli Author Amos Oz, Now in an Iraqi Bookstore Near You

'A Tale of Love and Darkness,' published in English in 2004, has sold more than a million copies worldwide, and officially translated into 28 languages.

Israeli author Amos Oz has discovered - to his delight - a bootleg Kurdish translation of his wildly popular book, "A Tale of Love and Darkness."

"The Arabic publisher of 'A Tale of Love and Darkness,' who published it just over a year ago in Beirut, was on a trip in northern Iraq and found the book in a bookstore," Oz told Haaretz yesterday. "He bought a copy and sent it to my agent in London, who sent it to me."

Tess Scheflan

"A Tale of Love and Darkness," originally published by Keter in 2002, has sold more than a million copies worldwide. It was published in English by Harcourt in 2004, and has been officially translated into 28 languages.

In the autobiographical work, Oz chronicles his childhood experiences in Jerusalem just before and after the declaration of the State of Israel.

One of Israel's most prominent authors, Oz said yesterday that when he first wrote the book, he was sure only Jerusalemites would read it.

"I didn't think they'd understand it in Tel Aviv," he said. "For me, the way the book was received was astonishing. I think perhaps the more local a book is, the better chance it has of being universal."

Oz's British agent, Deborah Owen, said no Kurdish publisher had ever inquired about the rights to the book, and that this version was published illegally.

"It surprised me that they even chose this book," Owen said.

"When I got the book I saw that one side of the jacket was in Kurdish, while the other side was in English," she said. "I've e-mailed the Arab publisher and told him that Amos is very excited. But it's still a mystery that I haven't managed to figure out."

"At the next International Book Fair in Frankfurt, I'll try to check and see if I can at least get the name of the publisher," she said.

Asked whether she would take legal action against the publisher, Owen said, "I have known Amos for many years, and I know he won't even want me to write an angry letter."

"'A Tale of Love and Darkness' has been translated into many languages, and it's an expensive translation, which is why many small countries think twice before acquiring it," she explained. "I think I'd contact him and even if they just pay a symbolic fee, I would want it under contract, in the hope that they would want to publish other books by Oz."

As for the legality of the translation, Oz said, "Every language it's translated into is a surprise for me. I wasn't expecting royalties from Kurdistan."

Several years ago, it was reported that a production company run by Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman had acquired the film rights to the book. Oz confirmed that he has a contract with Portman, but said that since the actress had a baby in June, the project has been put on hold.