Kotobi.Com, a major new Arabic ebookstore, launched at the end of this year’s Cairo International Book Fair. Managing Director Ashraf Maklad discussed the project’s challenges and opportunities, and what hurdles still need to be cleared.
It’s already a rough year for UK-based publishers who bring out translations from the Arabic. Last month, Quercus — which publishes Elias Khoury in the UK — put itself up for sale. This week, Saqi Books has announced that they’re looking for an investor.
Arabic literature has certainly had its share of bumps, bruises,insults, and injuries in English translation, but just as certainly it’s growing and diversifying. In a year where only three new works were translated from Chinese and distributed in the US, more than 30 were translated from Arabic, from al-Shidyaq’s “Leg Over Leg” to Abdul Aziz al-Mahmoud’s “The Corsair”.
Farah Abdessamad recently launched a Paris-based publishing house that specializes in fiction and non-fiction dealing with armed conflicts and fragile settings. The house, Editions Checkpointed, is looking for manuscripts in English and French. Abdessamad answered a few questions about the enterprise.
I returned from travels yesterday to find a copy of Lila Abu-Lughod’s new book, Do Muslim Women Need Saving? The ideas Abu-Lughod raises, at least in the sections I have read thus far, dovetail with Adam Talib’s musings in “Translating for Bigots.”
Door #1 was Hani al-Rahib’s The Epidemic and Door #2 was Mustafa Khalifa’s The Shell. Now, participants in the And Other Stories series of fall book groups focused on Syrian literature will be looking at Mamdouh Azzam’s novel Ascension to Death.
It was during a conversation between Yasmina Jraissati and Nadim Tarazi, director of La maison du livre that the idea for “Mubtada wa Khabar” (Subject and Predicate) first arose. It was 2006, and Jraissati had been an agent specialized in Arabic literature for two years, but was struggling to find independent information on books. Where was the Publishers Weekly of Arabic literature? Where were the best-seller lists? How could the information get out?
Translators are often expected to remain invisible puppeteers, unseen by all except specialists and those good at squinting. The translator who stays in the background is praised: The reader, we’re told, wants to connect with Elias Khoury, not Humphrey Davies; Jurji Zaydan, not Samah Selim. But there are moments when translators feel they must be heard.
Emerging Arabic-Polish translator Aleksandra Lasota-Barańska is a student of Arabic language and Islamic Culture at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland. She has a few publications and is now looking to publish her first translated collection, of Najwan Darwish’ poems. She answered a few questions for ArabLit about the landscape of Arabic literature in Polish.
The fierce conflict over Syria’s future, which began with great hopes in the spring of 2011, has battered the country’s publishing industry.
And it begins: It’s time to get an copy of Hani al-Rahib’s الوباء or read the excerpt and more online at And Other Stories.
The London-based publisher And Other Stories (AOS) will be running Arabic-English reading groups this fall: In Cairo, in NYC, and online. Participating readers will peruse three novels — the full novels in Arabic or excerpts in English — and talk through their opinions. Should one (or all?) of them be published in translation?