Egyptian editions help Arab writers reach new readers

Tanmia began publishing books by foreign authors to Egypt in 2016, he said, “after realizing readers’ thirst for Arab works which have won major literary prizes.”

Lotfy began in this regard with the novel “Destinies: Holocaust and Nakba ConcertoBy Palestinian writer Rabai Al-Madhoun after winning the International Prize for Arab Fiction.

The prestigious award, sometimes referred to as the “Arab Booker”, is funded by the Abu Dhabi Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Each of the six writers whose novels are on the shortlist for the award receives a prize of $ 10,000, and the winner receives an additional $ 50,000. Despite its nickname, the International Arab Fiction Prize is “completely independent” from the London-based Booker Prize, its website says. (See a related article, “Arab Women Writers Struggle to Get the Readers They Deserve.”)

After about five years of printing Arabic books in Egypt, Lotfy confirms the success of the strategy. Providing Egyptian editions of some Arabic books “has helped make valuable books available to the Egyptian reader at reasonable prices,” he said.

Lotfy also believes that the Egyptian editions have “contributed in a large measure to the fight against the counterfeiting mafia of books” and allowed the authors to “communicate with wider circles by signing parties with Egyptian readers”.

The attraction of the Egyptian market

Some authors are grateful for such opportunities. “Is there an Arab writer who does not want his words to reach Egypt? asks the Iraqi novelist Inaam Kachachi. Responding to her own question, she adds: “Cairo was and will remain the center of gravity of Arab cultural balance.

The General Palace of Culture Authority, a government agency that provides books at subsidized prices, published an Egyptian edition of Kachachi’s “Al Nabizah” (“The outcast“) this year. The novel, her fourth, was shortlisted for the International Prize for Arab Fiction in 2019.

Its publication in Egypt “made me happy,” Kachachi said, “because the novel was sold for less than half a dollar, and this contributed to the interest of many readers in buying it and reading it. read “.

The Moroccan poet Hassan Najmi considers the Egyptian market as “a source of great temptation for any Arab author”. This is because of the large Egyptian population (102 million people), he said, “as well as the symbolic position of Egyptian culture, which represents a great cultural incubator for Arabs”.

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