With ‘Rewayat,’ Sharjah Brings Key World Literature into Arabic, Including James Baldwin, Colson Whitehead

At this year’s Sharjah International Book Fair, the Kalimat Group — known for its attractive and charming children’s books — launched a major new imprint, which will bring world literature into Arabic:

By Mahmoud Hosny

Rewayat (@RewayatReads) is a subsidiary of the Sharjah, United Arab Emirates-based Kalimat Group. The initiative specializes in publishing Arabic and translated novels targeting young adults and adults, using the latest production methods. Rewayat, which will also publish books originally in Arabic, is striving to become an open house for literary talent in the Gulf and throughout the region.

They begin the effort with a focus on titles from English literature, both classic and contemporary, and the new translations that launched at the 2017 Sharjah International Book Fair, which ends today, include several important coups, including Colson Whiteheads multi-award-winning Underground Railroad and three novels by seminal American writer James Baldwin:

Go Tell It on the Mountain, by James Baldwin.

If Beale Street Could Talk, by James Baldwin.

Giovanni’s Room, by James Baldwin.

The Underground Railroad, by Colson Whitehead

American War, by Omar El Akkad.

The Cement Garden, by Ian McEwan

Last Orders, by British writer Graham Swift .

In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote.

Autumn, by Ali Smith.

Doctor Glas, by Hjalmar Söderberg. Doctor Glas is an outlier, published in 1905, creating a buzz over its controversial content. It’s since been since recognized as a classic in Swedish literature.

Rewayat has also purchased rights to a number of Arabic-original titles, several of which they launched earlier this year at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Kalimat Group founder Bodour Al Qasimi tweeted that Rewayat’s Thursday’s Visitors, by Saudi novelist Badriya Albeshr, which has been banned in Saudi, was “selling very well at @sharjahbookfair.

Other new books in Arabic include Syrian novelist Ibtisam Ibrahim Teresa’s Curse of the Cadmium and Daniah Fahad’s The Last Prank: A Clown’s Tear. 

Rewayat already has access to Kalimat Group’s strong range of distribution channels, one of the major challenges for any new Arabic publishing group. Thus, Rewayat’s books will be available to the public in various bookstores and local and international book fairs.

Kalimat Group, which launched with a line of children’s books in 2007, has now become several different entities: “Kalimat,” its arm for publishing Arabic children’s books; “Horouf,” an educational publisher; and “Rewayat,” with young-adult and adult titles.