Magdy Al-Shafee’s Banned ‘Metro’ To Be Unveiled At Festival of Mediterranean Comics

Arabic-Italian Translator Barbara Benini informs me that Magdy al-Shafee’s graphic novel Metro will be out in Italian at the end of the month. This, after a long road of bannings, fines, and court dates for al-Shafee.

Metro will be officially presented at the NUES festival of Mediterranean Comics on December 4  from 7-9 p.m. (Poster at right. You can see the details here.)

This year, Benini says, the festival is dedicated to the comics of the Middle East, and al-Shafee will be on hand to present his work. Other Arabic-related presentations at the festival include memories of the great Naji al-Ali and Arab “tales and fairy tales.”

Al-Shafee has not had an easy time seeing his work into print. Metro, billed as the first Egyptian graphic novel, is not available in Cairo after having been yanked from shelves in 2009. The Qasr el Nil Court of Misdemeanors upheld the book’s ban in November of last year and fined the publisher and creator each a not-insubstantial 5,000LE.

An excerpt was translated into English by Humphrey Davies and published on Words Without Borders, but last I spoke to Davies about it, he hadn’t intended to translate more.

However, according to a piece in Publishing Perspectives, the novel could be coming back out in Arabic for another go. And, the online magazine also noted, this whole kerfuffle could be having a positive effect on the reception of graphic novels:

Ahmad Al Aidy, who has authored a groundbreaking millennial-generation Arabic novel (An Takun ‘Abbas al Abd; translated into English [by Humphrey Davies, again] as Being Abbas el Abd)…suggests that the effect of the court case and fine against Metro is having the opposite effect of what was intended, since “it is encouraging more people to do graphic novels now.” Magdy El Shafee agrees that there is an upsurge of interest in graphic novels, particularly when compared to the difficult publishing environment he found when he first published Metro.

You can see more about the book, including an Al Jazeera report about its banning in Egypt, on the Italian publisher’s website.

Also, don’t forget that the first Arabic ComicCon is coming up in Abu Dhabi next March. 2011 could be the year of the Arabic graphic novel….