The Arab Voices project was (virtually) launched last week at the Frankfurt Book Fair, with a video presentation by project head Sherif Bakr and jury members Abier Megahed, Shereen Abouelnaga, and R. Neil Hewison:

The “Arab Voices” catalog, supported by the EU National Institutes for Culture, showcases thirty-two titles that were selected by an independent, seven-person jury that included Bakr, Megahed, Hewison, Abouelnaga, librarian Tine Lavent, ArabLit’s editor M. Lynx Qualey, and translator and scholar Hebba Sherif.

The first year has a focus on Egyptian literature; future years will focus elsewhere.

The project’s launch video can also be seen on YouTube:

The first Arab Voices list has a focus on recent Egyptian literature; more about the 32 selected titles can also be found on the Arab Voices Facebook page.

Shereen Abouelnaga,
talking about the project.

The titles were chosen over the course of several discussions that were, like so many conversations in 2020, held over Zoom. The core criterion was that they be books that could travel into other languages.

The selected books include a millennial story about relationships; an urban-fantasy graphic novel set in Cairo; a poignant portrait of enslavement and survival in 1960s small-town Sudan; a surreal thriller; a personal history of Coptic cuisine; a novel that shows Egypt’s 2011 uprising through the eyes of a sarcastic anti-hero; a literary detective story that uncovers the life of a lost author; a novel about irreverent young rebellion against the Coptic church; and many others. 

“When we were making the final selections we were focused on attracting the attention of the possible translator and publisher; we offered titles that would raise their curiosity; we wanted to get them interested,” Bakr said in an interview with Ahram Online.

“Our focus was to get contemporary Arab literature translated and sold in as many countries as possible,” he told AO. “It is as simple as that.”

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