Soon after celebrating its five-year anniversary, the Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing project was allowed to lapse, ending the link between the Qatar Foundation and Bloomsbury Publishing. Now, the Qatar Foundation “is to launch its own publishing house called Hamad bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press)”:
HBKU will continue, according to the press, to publish children’s books and novels, as well as academic and educational texts, both in Arabic and in English. All new books will be published under the new imprint.
The five-year parternship — launched with great fanfare at a party hosted by Queen Elizabeth — has had its ups and downs. There’s been the successful launch of BQFP authors in English, such as Kuwaiti novelist Saud Alsanousi, with his International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF)-winning The Bamboo Stalk, translated by Jonathan Wright.
BQFP has also brought out popular novels in Arabic, such as Ibrahim Eissa’s Mawlana, which was shortlisted for the IPAF, as well as excellent novels in translation, like Jabbour Douaihy’s June Rain, translated by Paula Haydar, and Amjad Nasser’s Land of No Rain, translated by Wright. The house also published original English titles, such as Mai al-Nakib’s award-winning short-story collection, The Hidden Light of Objects. They also brought out many Arabic children’s books, including the iconic The Gruffalo, in excellent translation by Nadia Fouda and Andy Smart.
But the publishing project also had management difficulties — changing management part-way through the first five years, plunging the house into a blank period — and problems with censorship, as all books had to be vetted by Qatar’s censorship office. In some cases, as with the novel When Pigeons Don’t Fly, a line or two was excised from the English edition.
In a prepared statement, Bloomsbury Publishing quietly marked the end of the partnership, calling it the end of a period of “knowledge transfer”:
“…the contracts for Bloomsbury to provide Qatar Foundation with publishing services to enable knowledge transfer to QF to have a self-sufficient publishing company reach the end of their term this month. We are now handing over to the strong local team we developed having completed this mission, who will continue to publish on the foundations established. QF now has the tools, knowledge and experience to take the reins and fully run its publishing house.”
During its five-year tenure, BQFP published more than 200 titles. The new HBKU Press will reportedly also take on the work of BQFJ, a project “responsible for launching the Middle East’s first open access, academic research platform, QScience.com.”