On the Launch of RiveArabe, Dedicated to Arabic Literature in Italian

The website “riveArabe: Storie dal mondo arabo” recently launched, a nine-person collective of translators, authors, and academics working between Arabic and Italian. RiveArabe’s Federica Pistono, a literary translator who has worked with texts by Ghassan Kanafani, Zakariyya Tamer, Fadi ‘Azzam, Inaam Kachachi, Bahaa Taher, Muhsin Al-Ramli, Mustafa Khalifa, Nihad Sirees, Badriya al-Bishr and others, answered a few questions about the new site.

How did the idea for RiveArabe come about? Who do you see as your audience? What do you want to talk about with them? 

Federica Pistono: The problem we encountered in Italy is the absence of a site that could connect translators, publishers, and readers, so we thought of building our site in such a way as to meet the needs of these three groups. Our audience is therefore made up not only of readers, scholars, and enthusiasts of Arabic literature, but also publishers looking for innovative voices and texts.

Therefore we will present to them in addition to the reviews of the works published in Italian, also editorial proposals for publishers who request them, and they are already arriving, after a few days, which means that the idea is good.

In summary, the more we talk about Arabic literature, the better, this is our philosophy.

You say, on the website, that this project stems from a love for the journey itself. A website is indeed a journey — it’s not like a finished product you can hold in your hand (a book, a magazine), but is rather always moving and shifting. What sorts of topics and places do you want to cover on this journey? How often should people stop by RiveArabe? 

FP: Regarding the places, we intend to deal with all Arabic-speaking countries, including Eritrea and Somalia, where the Arabic language is considered a second language. In the blog there is in fact a section called “Arab countries” where articles and reviews are classified on the basis of the country of origin of the works treated. As themes we will try to address them all: from the Arab springs of 2011 to their failure, from the women’s question to the claiming of rights, from dictatorships, to wars, to prison literature, from migration, to exile, from sci-fi to dystopia, from magical realism to fantasy, while a separate section is dedicated to children’s literature and YA. We plan to do a basic weekly post, then some months will have particular focuses, for example December is dedicated to Syrian prison literature.

How can your readers become part of the journey? Will there be an interactive element? Can they subscribe for updates?

FP: At the moment we are sharing our articles through social networks, mainly Facebook and Instagram, then, next year we will activate a newsletter. 

There is a lot of energy in Arabic literature in Italian translation: new magazines, a growing number of publications. What else would you like to see happen in the next 5-10 years, in order to support the best of Arabic literature in Italian translation? 

FP: It’s true, in recent years, there has been a certain ferment in the sector, but Arabic literature still remains outside the circuits of large-scale publishing, remaining entrusted to small, courageous publishers and translators driven mainly by passion. In our own small way, we intend to propose to widen the number of readers more and more, and this also thanks to the involvement of a greater number of publishers. This is our mission!

What else can people expect from the RiveArabe website?

FP: Complete information, as far as possible, on what is published in Italy and in Arab countries, a collaboration between publishers and translators, an interaction with the public of readers.

Also, to be honest, every time we meet on Zoom, a new idea comes up, so it’s a work in progress.

Find the website at upupa.blog.