Move Aside, English: BIBF Produces More Chinese-Arabic Literary Links

Moroccans, Emiratis, and Egyptians all forged new links during this year’s Beijing International Book Fair, which ended August 30:

The Egyptian contingent at this year's BIBF. Photo from Sherif Bakr.
The Egyptian contingent at this year’s BIBF. Photo from Sherif Bakr.

It’s true, Beijing isn’t quite ready to take over as a literary translation hub. English remains a central and high-prestige translational language, despite, or in some cases because of the few books that pierce the wall and make it into English. Nevertheless, the Chinese seem to be working harder to establish literary links with other language groups, including Arabic.

Morocco’s Ministry of Culture, which marked its first time at BIBF, made a preliminary agreement with China’s General Administration of Press and Publication to translate 25 original works of Moroccan authors in literature and humanities.

In return, Hassan El Ouazzani, director of the Book Department at Morocco’s Ministry of Culture, said in a prepared statement that “Morocco will translate 25 Chinese books into Arabic.”

Sherif Bakr of Dar al-Arabi
Sherif Bakr of Al-Arabi Publishing, via Bakr.

The United Arab Emirates was the guest of honor at this year’s BIBF, and the Sharjah Book Authority’s news release boasts of rediscovering the Silk Road.

According to the release, Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority, “stressed that the participation of the SBA in Beijing has opened more doors with Chinese and Asian publishers and a large number of official, cultural, intellectual, academic, and community figures who visited the exhibition and had the opportunity to learn about the UAE and its institutions and discuss ways of cooperation, whether through participation in exhibitions and conferences organized by the SBA or coordination of events.”

Parallel to the book fair, there was also a translation workshop for Sino-foreign literature translators, publishers, scholars, and writers, which ended August 29.

Egyptian translator Ahmed Zarif was among the participants; several other Egyptian publishers and booksellers also made their way to Beijing this year.


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