Arabic literature: what acquiring editors should know

This piece was commissioned and published by BookBrunch, Special issue for the Sharjah Book Fair, November 2014, and re-published by Publishers’ weekly.

In the spring of 2014, Ahmad Saadawi’s book Frankenstein in Baghdad was awarded the International Prize for Arab Fiction, also known as the Arab Booker. It is a novel of a kind quite different from the ones generally acclaimed by the public or by critics, and from those that have come to me for consideration in the past few years. Whatever its originality or flaws, its being awarded the IPAF could be the sign of an interesting change to come.
Continue reading


Reaching out to ‘invisible’ readers

This article was commissioned by BookBrunch for its special issue on Sharjah International Book Fair 2013

Arab books face numerous challenges, and Arab publishers consistently invoke the following, in order of priority: piracy, lack of systematic distribution channels, censorship, and differences in purchasing power across countries. Today, while some difficulties may have increased, others have eased. Continue reading

Selling Arabic fiction rights: it’s what’s inside that counts

This article was commissioned by Bookbrunch for the Sharjah International Book Fair, November 2012.
This is the unabridged version.

When asked about the challenges of selling world translation rights of Arabic fiction, one’s first response is naturally always focused on the potential acquirers. It is a fact that Arabic is not widely read in the international publishing industry, and this indubitably has consequences on the access non-Arab publishers have to Arabic literature. There also are other deeper factors that have to do with the relationship each individual editor may have with what he believes to be the ‘Arab world’. Continue reading


Who is the author of this book of tweets?

Written for and published by Publishing perspectives, @pubperspectives by Yasmina Jraissati

On the eve of their fifth birthday, Twitter published some remarkable stats. On average per day: 140 million tweets and 460,000 new accounts. Without a doubt, we are living interesting times. The dematerialization of cultural products is in the process of revolutionizing the notion of “book”. User generated content, online publishing tools and mostly social media are empowering individuals both in the virtual world and on the streets, and appear to be in the process of revolutionizing the notion of “authorship”. Continue reading

On Jergovic’s ‘Chestnut castle’

Un palais en papier

«Dans le petit monde de la maison en noyer, le temps passait plus vite. Cinq minutes de jeu d’enfant s’écoulaient comme une journée, une demi-heure comme une année. Pour un an de chair et d’os, c’était tout un siècle en bois qui était déjà passé. Dans le monde en noyer, on vivait plus longtemps. Autant de siècles que durait l’enfance ». Continue reading