Earlier this month, former Moroccan Minister of Culture Mohammed Achaari became the first Maghrebi to win the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF). This was, according to leading Arabic-French translator Richard Jacquemond, almost as important as 2011 being the first year the IPAF had a female winner.

That’s because, according to Jacquemond, “Arabic literature from the Maghreb [west] has been…consistently marginalised by the dominant Mashriqi [eastern] literary scene.”

But that may be changing. Sylvia Smith reports at The National that a bookshop in Tangier aims to make that north Moroccan city a center for Arabic publishing.

Smith notes that the books on the shelves at Librairie des Colonnes remain largely French, as they were when the shop was opened by Belgian proprietors in 1949. But, she writes, La Librairie’s director, Simon Pierre Hamelin, is determined to take the bookshop in a new direction. He has re-launched the literary review Nejma and told Smith that he wants to see more books translated into Arabic and to set up a literary prize.

Hamelin said:

We have a growing Arabic section and we are going to build on that. The world of Arabic publishing is in need of a bit of a shake-up. We would like to see links set up between the centres of Arabic publishing in countries around the Mediterranean – Beirut, Algiers, Cairo – and, of course, Tangier.

He added:

[Jean] Genet is well known in the Arab world, but he hasn’t been translated. Using our quarterly literary review, Nejma as a launch pad, we’re planning future issues published in Beirut and Algiers. It’s a means of communicating directly across the Mediterranean basin in Arabic and cutting out the need to involve France or the United States.

In other Moroccan literary news:

Abdellatif Laâbi wins Benjamin Fondane International Prize for Fracophone Literature

A Qantara Interview with Florian Vetsch:  Tangier, City of Mythical Splendour

Laâbi’s poetry in English:

Abdellatif Laâbi: from Fragments of a Forgotten Genesis

Laâbi, Poetry & Torture