This is something all publications should do — review their cultural coverage, what worked and what didn’t, and the reasons behind it. And then make the discussion publicly available:
Among the highlights of the discussion that pertained to literature:
Nael El Toukhy (Mada’s Arabic opinion editor and former Arabic culture editor): Our literature coverage was lacking, especially that most of it took place during the Booker Prize season. I feel that we should focus more on new releases throughout the year.
Amina Elmasry (translator): Not just newly published Egyptian or Arab works, but also newly translated titles, how and why they get translated — to critically engage with current translation trends. I think this is very important to address in the Arabic section, since it targets Arabic readers who would naturally be interested in world literature that is newly available in Arabic.
Also Lina Attalah, always imagining a new way to do things:
Lina Attalah (Mada’s editor-in-chief): We often succumb to the typical method of writing reviews about novels and books, and I think we should embrace more experimentation. For example, I really enjoyed Jailan Zayan’spiece about Hisham Matar’s The Return, because she drew a parallel between her personal trajectory and that of Matar’s in the memoir, so it was a fantastic experience delving into the book in that way. I’m not saying all reviews need to have a personal touch in order to be interesting, but the point is to find a way around traditional forms of writing reviews.
There is a problem of reproducing established ways of writing about certain fields, such as contemporary art, with their unwavering dependence on jargon that is exceedingly niche and mostly borrowed from western formats. I think we should do more to challenge existing forms, and it’s a challenge that can’t be reduced to, “How can we simplify a complicated text?” — this is the wrong question to ask. Rather, the issue is how to introduce fresh, compelling forms of writing that have the ability to overcome the problems posed by current trends.