5 Questions: Publishing’s 2020 ‘Hotlist: Arab World’

At this year’s Frankfurt Book Fair, the Alliance internationale des éditeurs indépendants presented the first-ever “Arab World Hotlist,” a curated selection of titles from 30 independent publishing houses in seven countries (Algeria, Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar, Syria and Tunisia):

“The HotLists,” organizers write, “while offering an opportunity to discover the creativity of independent publishers, are also tools facilitating the exchange of rights: books and authors are presented in the original language of the book and in English, the contacts of publishing houses are easily accessible and up to date – these lists are thus to be consulted and used throughout the year.”

The list was particularly supported by publishers Élisabeth Daldoul (Elyzad, Tunisie), Kenza Sefrioui (En toutes lettres, Maroc), Samar Haddad (Atlas, Syria) and Selma Hellal (Barzakh, Algeria). Kenza Sefrioui answered five questions for ArabLit about the Hotlist:

Does “Hotlist 2020” mean you will have it in future years as well?

Kenza Sefrioui: Yes, we hope to renew this adventure every year, following the example of our colleagues from Latin America in the International Alliance of Independent Publishers who began ten years ago.

How were the titles chosen? What criteria did you have for selecting them? I’m so glad to see genres on the list that are not usually suggested for translation.

KS: For this first selection, we decided to choose a theme: The Arab World within 1001 languages, in order to show the linguistic and cultural diversity within our region. Then, we paid attention to the recent titles which were of international interest, which won prizes or created an event in the country.

How many languages is it in total?

KS: We have eight languages: literary Arabic, Darija, French, Spanish, English, Kurdish, Armenian, and Syriac. We also tried to represent different literary genres in fiction and nonfiction.

If a publisher is interested in a sample, can they contact the email listed? 

KS: Of course.

How are you tracking what happens to the titles? How will you decide if it was a “success,” whatever that means to the group of you?

KS: We want our books to reach a wider international audience and hope to sell rights for translations. We first imagined promoting our titles through annual exhibitions, from the Maghreb-Orient des livres Book Fair in Paris in February 2020 to Frankfurt Book Fair in October, but the pandemic forced us to think of other ways of promotion, maybe virtually. We are already satisfied by the reception in the Arab press.