Pitfalls and Possibilities: Arabic Literature in Hindi at World Book Fair

This year’s New Delhi World Book Fair — India’s biggest book-related event — ended yesterday. Sharjah was the guest of honor, and they brought along a large delegation of authors and publishers, in addition to launching 57 titles, translated from Arabic to Hindi, at the nine-day fair:

Much was made out of the potential linkages: there are approximately two million Indian expats working in the UAE; the UAE accounts for 37% of India’s total book exports to Arab-majority countries; and, aside from any particular ties, India is a $6.7 billion book market. Organizers were promoting investment opportunities in the Sharjah Publishing City free zone; the Sharjah Book Fair and its translation grant; Emirati literature in Hindi; its status as 2019’s World Book Capital; and a delegation of 10 emerging Emirati writers and tens of other academics and specialists.

Throughout the week, the Sharjah Book Authority tweeted not only in its usual English and Arabic, but the SBA also tweeted in Hindi as they shared news about what was going on with the Sharjah delegation at the World Book Fair:

As seems evident from the photo, there was wide interest in the authors, opportunities. New Delhi-based international publishing consultant and critic Jaya Bhattacharji Rose echoed this interest. Unfortunately, she said, “there was a lot of enthusiasm to hear the participants but we could not understand as there were no translators.”

An event without translation.

As to the books that were translated from Arabic to Hindi, they all seemed to have been brought out by a single Mumbai-based publisher, Quarterfold Printabilities. The books for sale at the stand seemed to be a range of titles, including, unsurprisingly, an autobiography from Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi; the novel An Exceptional Woman by Emirati author Ali Abu Reesh; a collection of poetry by Emirati businesswoman and poet Aisha Al Bousmeet. The titles did not seem to have been picked particularly to appeal to Hindi readers.

Brochures promoted the translation fund offered at the Sharjah Book Fair — although only for publishers who are present at the fair — as well as Sharjah’s plans for their year as World Book Capital:

There were also small stands for Kalimat — a major Sharjah-based children’s publisher; the UAEBBY, or UAE Board on Books for Young People; and the Emirates Publishing Association.

A great deal of news coverage attended Sharjah’s presence at the New Delhi World Book Fair — Google News totted up more than 1500 stories in English alone. Clearly there is potential interest in greater ties, both in literature and publishing.

All photos generously provided by Jaya Bhattacharji Rose.