A Talk with Publishing House Dar Naufal on the ‘Naufal Novel,’ Their Top Sellers, & Where They’re Finding Readers

The publishing house Dar Naufal, which launched in 1970, became one of the core imprints of Hachette Antoine in 2009. That’s when a French and a Lebanese book venture joined forces: French publishing house Hachette Livre (founded 1826) and the Lebanese bookstore Librairie Antoine (founded in 1933).

The Naufal list focuses on Arabic literary works, and it features both classic and new authors from across the region and in the diaspora. Recent notable works include Said Khatibi’s The End of the Desert, winner of a 2023 Sheikh Zayed Book Award and Khaled Khalifa’s No One Prayed Over Their Graves, which was longlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction and is coming in English from Faber & Faber (UK) and FSG (US) in July 2023. Also, Hilal Chouman chose Hassan Dawood’s A Chance for a Final Love (فرصة لغرام أخير) as one of his recommended summer reads.

Recent Naufal Titles

Rana Hayeck, the editor-in-chief of Naufal imprint at Hachette Antoine, answered a few questions about the house, with a cameo from Naufal’s community-engagement specialist Hoda Marmar, who answers a question about social media.

How would you describe a “Naufal novel”? What do Naufal editors look for when reading or soliciting submissions, and what can readers expect when they pick up one of your novels?

Rana Hayeck: A Naufal novel is, in short, one that respects the reader. We choose talented authors, new or established; we choose quality content; and we choose originality. For the readers, every novel we publish is a new adventure, a discovery, and a journey.

Can you give us a few basics? Approximately how many books does Naufal publish in a year, and how does this shake out by genre (poetry, fiction, nonfiction)?

RH: Naufal publishes a big variety of books, around 25 titles a year in different genres. We mostly publish original Arabic fiction including novels, and Arabic nonfiction including history, politics, self-help, and biographies. And in very exceptional cases, we publish poetry. We also purchase rights and translate bestsellers in fiction and nonfiction, because we believe one of the missions of any publisher is to enhance intercultural exchange and exposure.

What are some of your top sellers this year?

RH: These are some of the 2022/2023 releases that sold particularly well:

Arabic titles:

  • القتيلة 232، جمانة حداد (رواية)  – Victim 232, a novel by Joumana Haddad
  • صائب سلام (سيرة ذاتية، سياسة، تاريخ) – The memoir of Saeb Salam
  • كلمة أكبر من بيت، عباس بيضون (شعر) – A Word Bigger than a House, a poetry collection by Abbas Beydoun
  • كيومٍ مشمس على دكة الاحتياط، مازن معروف (مجموعة قصصية) – Like a Sunny Day on the Bench, a short-story collection by Mazen Maarouf
  • نهاية الصحراء، سعيد خطيبي (رواية) The End of the Desert, a novel by Said Khatibi

Translated books:

  • Ismail Pasha (Biography, Robert Solé) إسماعيل باشا، خديوي مصر
  • L’inconnue de la Seine (Novel, Guillaume Musso) مجهولة نهر السين
  • Lethal White (Novel, Robert Galbraith) البيضاء القاتلة

Ah yes, and there’s an excerpt of Victim 232 available in translation at The Markaz Review: https://themarkaz.org/joumana-haddad-victim-232

Speaking of which, several of your books have traveled well into translation: the novels of Khaled Khalifa, of course, and Mahmoud Shukair’s Praise for the Women of the Family. What are a few of your other books – old or new – that you think would travel well in other languages?

RH: We have a lot of books that really deserve the chance to be translated and read in other languages, among those:

• Yuliana, by Nizar Abdel Sattar (يوليانا، نزار عبد الستار)

• Footpath, by Rahim Hasawi (ممرّ المشاة، راهيم حساوي)

• A Man from Satan, Suhaib Ayoub (رجل من ساتان، صهيب أيوب)

• Circles of the Blind, Mustafa Musa (دوائر العميان، مصطفى موسى)

• Two Suns on the Nile, Atef Hajj Saeed (شمسان على النيل، عاطف الحاج سعيد)

• The First Trees, Omar Abi Samra (الأشجار الأولى، عمر أبي سمرة)

• Dying at the Edge of Memory, Ahmad Al-Harbawi (احتضار عند حافة الذاكرة، أحمد الحرباوي)

Can you tell us about any forthcoming titles you think are particularly exciting?

RH: Every project we get into is an adventure for us in Naufal. Every project is special and unique in this sense. Forthcoming waves are exciting in their diversity; they include – besides literature and two renowned Arabic fiction authors – a new category for “wellbeing” books, as well as two bestselling Western authors with whom we are still negotiating the rights.

Where are you finding most of your readers these days? At book fairs, in bookshops, online sales, or elsewhere?

RH: A little of each, I guess, but mainly bookshops and book fairs.

Where do you learn the most about how readers are interacting with books? From GoodReads, social media, or somewhere else?

Hoda Marmar: We learn about how readers are interacting with our books mainly through social media, notably Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Bookstagramming is booming in the Arab World; bringing readers, authors, and publishers closer. GoodReads is also a great source of reviews, though less interactive for the time being. We also meet with our readers in book fairs and bookish events, such as signings and book discussions.

What are the next five to 10 years going to bring for Naufal Books?

RH: It is definitely bringing growth, more excitement and experiments, since we believe in what we do, and above all, we LOVE IT!