The new Arab-English publishing venture—the Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP)—unveiled its first list of books at the Tate in London yesterday.
This comes after a big BQFP launch party hosted by the Queen earlier in the week.
The Foundation launches with children’s titles in Arabic and adult ones in English. In English, they’ve got: The American Granddaughter, by Arabic Booker shortlist-ee Inaam Kachachi (due out July 2010), Nothing to Lose But Your Life by Suad Amiry (available now in English, soon in Arabic), an anthology Qatari Voices, and a number of children’s books available in English and Arabic.
Dr. Abdul Rahman Azzam’s quote from the list launch (via a Telegraph blog) confused me:
“There is something of a myth that people in the Arab world don’t read that much,” said Azzam at the launch of the new publishing venture. “But that is because many young Arab writers find it so hard to get published. With this new publishing venture we hope to change all that by presenting a new generation of young Arab writers to the outside world.”
First: Many people in the Arab world don’t read that much, because books are damn expensive and full literacy is still not that high (at least, well, in Egypt). But what confuses me more is…what does this “myth” have to do with Arab writers who have a hard time getting published in the West?
The Telegraph has a ridiculous smoochie-kissy blog post about the principals in the venture. Con Coughlin calls Qatar’s Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani far more responsible than his wild Emirati neighbors; he also inexplicably calls the new head of the Qatar-Bloomsbury development program “elegant.”
Coughlin, who the Telegraph asserts is a “world-wide expert on the Middle East and Islamic terrorism” (which of course qualifies him to talk about Arab literature), calls veteran novelist Alaa el Aswani an “up-and-coming” Arab writer. He also says: “Suddenly the world of Arab literature won’t be such a closed book.”
Forget the problems of translation quality, distribution, and reader interest. Three titles and a party with the queen, apparently, doth an open book make.