Culture: Arab uprisings at centre of Beirut Book Fair

Arabic translation of Pasolini poems presented

15 December, 17:32

(ANSAMed) - BEIRUT, DECEMBER 15 - The revolutions and uprisings that are in progress in some Arab countries were at the centre, explicitly but most of all implicitly, of the 55th Arab Book Fair in Beirut. The event was closed today after almost two weeks of meetings and debates. One of these discussions focused on a translation in Arabic of some poems by Pier Paolo Pasolini.

Some books, most of them written in Western languages and presented at the Fair in their Arabic translation, zoom in on the social, economic, political and cultural repercussions of the spark that was ignited a year ago by the young Tunisian man Muhammad Bouazizi. However, there are few books written in Arabic by writers in the Maghreb (North Africa) or Mashreq (Arab Orient), which possibly shows that it takes more time to reflect on the events when seen from the inside than it takes to make a cool analysis from the outside, seen from the European capitals.

Founded in 1956, the International Arab Book Fair in Beirut is the oldest book fair in the Arab world. But it is also the most continuous, because it also opened during the dark years of the Lebanese civil war (1975-90).

Around 180 publishing firms participated in last year's event, coming from almost the entire Mashreq (eastern Arab world) and Gulf area, but most Syrian publishers were not there.

Beirut, just 150 km away from Damascus, feels the impact of the dramatic repression that has been in progress in Syria for more than nine months. Syrian editors were in fact well-represented in the past year at the Biel fair complex, where the famous pan-Arab literary event has been organised for years. But the Syrian question is present on the bookshelves, particularly books by publishers that focus on fiction, not on non-fiction. One of these, the Lebanese publisher Dar al Adab, is one of the most important Arab publishers. The company was founded in the year the first Beirut Book Fair was organised. Its catalogue includes some of the critical political novels that are closest connected to the current sad situation in Syria: In Praise of Hatred (published in Italian by Bompiani) of Khaled Khalifa, The Mirror of my Secret (published in Italian by Castelvecchi) of Samar Yazbeck, al Quqaa of Mustafa Khalife (translated intor French as La Coquille) and Asiyyu Damm (not translated) by Manhal Sarraj. The catalogue of Dar al-Adab alone is enough to give the Fair its international nature: its authors, apart from the Syrians who were already mentioned, include the Egyptians Sunallah Ibrahim, Baha Taher and Miral al-Tahawi, the Moroccans Yusuf Fadil and Abdelfattah Kilito and Palestinian writer Sahar Khalifa. And then there are the important Lebanese writers: Hanan al-Sheikh, who is present at this year's book fair, Elias Khoury, Hoda Barakat, and Rabia Jaber, the young and productive writer who has been known internationally for years.

Another active large Arab publisher is Manshurat al-Jamal - or al-Kamel Verlag in German - founded in Cologne in 1983 by the Iraqi poet and writer Khaled al-Maali, who was forced to flee from Saddam Hussein to Lebanon and France, before settling down in Germany.

One of the two meetings organised by the publisher this year at the Beirut Book Fair regards the presentation of the Arabic translation from the Italian poems of Pier Paolo Pasolini, now published under the title Zaribat al-khanazir (Pigsty).


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