‘BILA HUDOOD: Arabic Literature Everywhere,’ an inaugural online literary festival funded by the Royal Society of Literature, is pleased to announce out full schedule of events, set for July 9-11:
From July 9-11, the “Bila Hudood: Arabic Literature Everywhere” festival will bring together authors, translators, publishers, and readers to discuss highlights of contemporary Arabic literature in a broad range of genres, including memoir, food writing, poetry, creative nonfiction, YA, science fiction, fantasy, and theatre. Writers, playwrights, and poets from Mauritania, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan will be on the panels, moderated by authors, editors, and translators.
Over the course of the three days, there will also be more than a dozen translators’ pitch videos, featuring books that have not yet been translated, as well as five panels.
July 9th Friday:
Arabic Literature in Berlin
Time: 1-2 p.m. EST / 6-7 p.m. BST / 7-8 p.m. CEST
This panel shines a spotlight on Berlin as a centre of Arabic-language literary production. Prose writer Haytham El-Wardany, playwright Liwaa Yazji, and Arabic-German translator Sandra Hetzl will reflect on the recent upsurge of Arabic writing taking place in the city and discuss themes and styles that emerge in this body of work, and the inspiration they find for their own practice. We will discuss the infrastructure that supports this creativity, and ask whether Berlin is doing enough to support its non-German writers. We’ll also examine some of the challenges of being an Arab writer in Berlin. Panelists will read short extracts from recent work they’ve written in or about Berlin. Moderated by Katharine Halls.
This panel is in association with Khan Aljanub, Berlin’s leading Arabic bookshop.
July 10th Saturday:
African Narratives in Arabic publishing
Time: 8-9 EST / 1-2pm BST / 2-3 CEST
This panel will delve into the experiences of Ahmed Val Bin El Dine and Ishraga Mustafa, two African writers publishing in the Arabic literary sphere. What challenges have they faced, if any? What lessons have they learnt? What is their view on translation? We will also discuss their journey as writers, focusing on their works published and what is to come. The session will be moderated by Sawad Hussain.
The Taste of Letters
Time: 9:30 a.m. EST / 2:30-3:30 BST / 3:30-4:30 p.m. CEST
In 2019, a two-month food-writing workshop called “The Taste of Letters” (طعم الحروف) took place at the Contemporary Image Collective in Cairo as part of Botoun (a series of workshops, film screenings, and an exhibition that engaged with the politics of food). “The Taste of Letters” became the title of a collection of texts that emerged from the workshop, and they appeared in English translation as part of the Summer 2021 issue of ArabLit Quarterly, guest-edited by Nour Kamel. In this panel, moderated by Nour Kamel, writers reflect on the various tastes that make up food writing in and through Arabic. Kamel is joined by writer, researcher, and filmmaker Salma Serry; the genre-spanning author of Food for Copts (2017) Charles Akl; and Mariam Boctor a member of Botoun’s curatorial team who helped facilitate “The Taste of Letters” workshop and translated some of its texts into English.
These Literary Truths: Memoir and Life-writing
Time: 11 a.m. EST / 4-5 p.m. BST / 5-6 p.m. CEST
With the innovative projects like the Kayfa Ta (“How To”) series and a number of poets turning to long-form prose, there has been a new wave of Arabic literary nonfiction that weaves together deeply intimate family histories with insights into photography, the nature of silence and sleep, patriarchy, and how familial histories twine together with broader political forces. This panel, “These Literary Truths,” will be moderated by writer and editor Rima Rantisi, co-founder of Rusted Radishes magazine in Beirut. She will be joined by writer Amr Ezzat (Room 304 or How I Hid from My Dear Father for 35 Years, How To Remember Your Dreams), poet, novelist, and nonfiction writer Dunya Mikhail (The Beekeeper of Sinjar), and one of the co-founders of the Kayfa Ta project, artist and curator Maha Maamoun.
July 11th Sunday:
Young Adult Lit: Fantastic worlds & where to find them
Time: Noon EST / 5 p.m. BST / 6 p.m. CEST
Young Adult literature in Arabic is a small but extraordinarily vibrant space, which has seen steady growth in the last decade, with new literary prizes, new sub-genres, and a growing appetite for new books among young readers. Among these fantastic new worlds, readers will find time-travel fantasies, science fictional futures, magical realism, detective tales, and more. This panel will be led by leading expert on Arabic YA Susanne Abou Ghaida, who will be joined by three YA writers: by Palestinian-Jordanian novelist Taghreed Najjar, Syrian novelist Maria Dadouch, and Egyptian novelist and translator Ahmed al-Mahdi.
In addition to the panels, more than ten translators will be pitching their best books, in the hope of finding a publisher. Works range from a memoir-biography hybrid set in 1930s Cairo; to a magical-realist novel where everyone suddenly discovers they can fly (but then flying is suddenly forbidden); to an award-winning novel about a Kuwaiti love triangle; to contemporary Palestinian poetry; to experimental short stories foregrounding the lives of animals. Authors are from Kuwait, Syria, Yemen, Oman, Morocco, Egypt, and elsewhere.
Kate Griffin, Associate Programme Director, National Centre for Writing, said of the festival: “This impressive festival illuminates the stars of contemporary Arabic literature, widening the focus to encompass genres generally under-represented in English translation. An exceptional opportunity to explore the fantastic range of writing in Arabic today.’
Award-winning Pakistani writer and columnist Fatima Bhutto said that: “Arabic literature, its writers and translators, has enriched the universe of literature, imagination and culture for centuries. We need festivals like this now more than ever.”
Susan Harris, Editorial Director, Words Without Borders: “What an admirable project, and what an exciting lineup! I’m really looking forward to both the panels and the pitches, and hope this becomes an annual event.”
Daniel Hahn, award-winning translator: “Bila Hudood is such an exciting prospect, giving us just a tantalising glimpse of contemporary Arabic writing in all its diversity. UK publishers might not know it yet, but this is exactly the sort of initiative they need right now. (And doesn’t it look *fun*, too? Can’t wait …)“
And Bodour Al Qasimi, president of the International Publishers Association and founder of Kalimat Publishing Group: “Arabic literature has played a key role in the evolution of human consciousness throughout history, and Bila Hudood is a wonderful opportunity to shine light on its depth and richness. The diversity of subjects and participants in this virtual event transcend location and borders, and that’s a true reflection of Arabic literature’s global reach and impact on humanity.”