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Issue 79 - June 2011

Thursday 30 June 2011 by Ina Doublekova

Focus on Arab Literatures in Prague

(JPG) Book World in Prague has a long history of organizing the annual Prague book fair. This year in May, however, an Arabic-speaking country became its guest of honor for the first time. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and by extension Arab literature in general was the focus of attention for both exhibitors and guests at the beautiful setting of the book fair.

Next Page presented a brief summary of the results of its studies of translations into and from Arabic at a panel on Arabic Literature in Translation, which also featured Charif Bahbouh (Syria/CZ), Khalid Biltagi (Egypt), Alexandra Büchler (UK, Literature Across Frontiers), Bára Černá (CZ), Alice Guthrie (UK), Neil Hewison (Egypt, American University of Cairo Press), Maurice Issa (Syria/CZ), and Zuzana Kudláčková (CZ).

On the occasion of the fair, the publisher setoutbooks produced an original compilation of modern Arabic short stories in Czech translation, co-funded by Next Page. The collection includes 18 texts by 14 authors from across the Arab world, translated by a team of young translators from the Charles University in Prague.

The whole program of Prague book fair events is available here.

Tunis Forum on Youth and the Arab Spring

(JPG) On June 23-26, the “Tunis Exchange Forum: Building Plural and Democratic Societies” took place in Tunis, where the Arab Spring began. The event was organized by the Anna Lindh Foundation within the framework of the initiative “Believe in Dialogue, Act for Citizenship,” which was launched in response to recent events in the Arab world.

The Tunis Forum brought together more than 200 representatives of civil society at large, coming from all across the Euro-Mediterranean region, including NGO managers, human rights activists, youth leaders and bloggers, as well as officers from EU institutions and representatives of cultural institutes. All participants took part in a discussion of three major aspects of the issues of citizenship and intercultural dialogue within the context of democratic transition, namely: arts, media and youth, and active citizenship.

Next Page Foundation’s project coordinator Ina Doublekova was among those selected to take part in the forum. Given Next Page’s profile, it is only natural that its representative contributed mainly to the panels devoted to the topic of “Arts and Civil Society,” focusing on the role of contemporary arts in turbulent social situations. In addition, questions concerning the potential for artistic expression to bring change and to encourage dialogue were also addressed. Furthermore, the comiXculture project, linking artists from Eastern Europe with their colleagues from Lebanon, was presented at the “Best Practices” section of the forum.

The Digital and the Translated

For four years now the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation has organized its spring creative writing seminars in Sozopol, Bulgaria, followed by an open round table in Sofia. In May this year the round table focused on the role of the digital in the future of literature in translation. Moderated by Jeremiah Chamberlin of Fiction Writers Review, the panel also included journal publishers (John Freeman of Granta), writers (Rana Dasgupta, Kapka Kassabova and Miroslav Penkov) as well as publishers (Fergal Tobin, Manol Peykov and Svetlozar Zhelev).

Yana Genova of Next Page presented the results of the Foundation’s recent study of Bulgarian literature in translation and commented on the specific challenges and opportunities that the digital environment poses for literature in translation as opposed to original texts. The panelists seemed to agree that digital opportunities will probably not dramatically change the way books in translation are produced, digital possibilities will nevertheless likely affect the way publishers approach their audiences.