Comic-book hero Asterix did his bit for Middle East peace this weekend, when Arab and Hebrew translations of an Asterix album with a Middle Eastern touch were released simultaneously at the Paris book fair.
"Translation opens us up to others, to all peoples," said Syrian Jamal Shehayeb, who usually translates literary works by Proust or poet Lamartine.
In the books, the diminutive Gallic warrior's friends "live in peace and friendship with all other people as long as nobody bothers them", said Israeli Dorith Daliot Rubinovitz, who generally translates French novelist Maupassant.
The translated comic book album is titled in French "Asterix chez Rahazade" (Asterix at Rahazade's) and refers to the 1001 Arabian Nights.
Both translators said they had had to adapt the text to reality, but had decided to keep the wild boars that people the albums despite religious objections to pork.
"We left the boars in though they're not kosher," said the Israeli translator.
Syrian Shehayeb said an earlier Asterix album translated into Arabic had used "wild beasts" rather than "boars" to avoid offending fundamentalists. "I kept the original because you have to face reality as it is," he said.
Since he came to life in 1959, Asterix has been translated into 107 languages and dialects.