Friday, April 18, 2008

London Book Fair 2008

"Over 40 leading writers, commentators and industry professionals from the Arab World took part in a three-day cultural program celebrating the strength and diversity of Arabic literature at the London Book Fair (14-16 April).

The Arab writers took part in a series of talks, discussions and debates aimed at strengthening cultural relations with the Arab World, by developing meaningful dialog between writers, publishers, translators and readers. The seminars will also provide a platform for new voices from the Arab World to promote their books to a global publishing audience, highlighting current trends in contemporary Arabic literature, with a view to increase the quantity and quality of literary work translated between Arabic and English."

On the second day of the fair, Egyptian novelist and journalist Alaa Al Aswany was singled out as "author of the day". Al Aswany discussed "literature without frontiers". Other participants from Egypt were:
  • Ahmad Alaidy: Alaidy was born in Cairo in1974. He studied marketing at Cairo University. He has worked as a scriptwriter on quiz shows and for the cinema and as a writer of satirical stories for young people and a book designer. Currently he writes a political comic strip for an Egyptian weekly. Alaidy has participated in international writers’ programs at Iowa University’s International Writers Program and at Hong Kong Baptist University. He has previously published a long short story; Being Abbas el Abd is his first novel.
  • Bahaa Taher: Taher was born in Cairo in 1935. He holds postgraduate diplomas in history and mass media from Cairo University. Since he published his first short story in 1964 he has published 14 books (6 novels, 4 short story collections and 4 non-fiction works) many of which have been translated. After working as a translator at the United Nations in Geneva in the 1980s and 90s, he returned to Egypt and received much literary acclaim for his work. He represents an illuminated Egyptian and Arabic nationalism, which draws inspiration from the principles of freedom and social justice. His style is direct, concise and highly poetic. He received the State Award of Merit in Literature, Egypt’s highest honour for writing, in 1998, and the Italian Giuseppe Acerbi Prize for his novel Aunt Safiyya and the Monastery in 2000. His novel Love in Exile is published in English by the AUC Press. In 2008 Taher was the first winner of the $50,000 International Prize for Arabic Fiction for his novel Sunset Oasis. Published in Cairo by Dar Al Shorouk, the novel explores one man’s existential crisis.
  • Galal Amin: Amin graduated from the Faculty of Law, Cairo University in 1955. He earned an MSc in 1961 and a PhD in 1964, both in economics from the London School of Economics. He was an Associate Professor of Economics at the Faculty of Law, Ain Shams University, a visiting professor at UCLA twice, and Economic Advisor to the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development, all before he joined American University in Cairo in 1979. His most popular books are Whatever Happened to the Egyptians? And Whatever Else Happened to the Egyptians? both translated and published by the AUC Press. He recently published, in Arabic, his autobiography, What Life Has Taught Me.
  • Khaled El Khamisy:El Khamisy was born in Cairo in 1962. He holds an MA in political science from the Sorbonne University. He worked for the National Institute for Social Studies and then Al Ahram Newspaper. He is now the owner and the CEO of Nile Production Company, which has produced a number of drama and documentary films and series. He is the author of Taxi, which was published in Arabic by Dar El Shorouk (2007) and which will be published in English in 2008. He writes weekly articles in a number of daily Egyptian newspapers, including Al Ahram, ElMasry Elyom and the Daily News. He co-scripted the Egyptian television series Noffel Prize.
  • Mekkaoui Said: Said was born in Cairo in 1955. He published his first collection of short stories, Running Towards the Light, in 1981. Since then he has published many novels, as well as writing scripts for short and long films and for documentaries. He has also written for children magazines throughout the Arab world. His novel Swan Song was short-listed for the first International Prize for Arabic Fiction.
  • Radwa Ashour:Ashour was born in Cairo in 1946. She has published seven novels, three collections of short stories and four books of criticism. Part I of her Granada Trilogy won the 1994 Cairo International Book Fair Book of the Year Award; the Trilogy won First Prize at the First Arab Woman Book Fair in 1995. Part I of the Trilogy was translated into English and the whole trilogy was translated into Spanish.The Italian translation of Atyaaf (Ghosts) will be published by Ilisso in September 2008. Ashour co-edited the four-volume Encyclopedia of Arab Women Writers: 1873-1999 (2005). She also supervised and edited the Arabic translation of Vol. 9 of The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism (2006). Ashour was awarded the 2007 Constantine Cavafi Prize for Literature. She is currently professor of English and Comparative Literature, Ain Shams University, Cairo.
  • Samia Mehrez: Mehrez is Associate Professor of Arabic Literature at the American University in Cairo. Her publications include Egyptian Writers between History and Fiction: Essays on Naguib Mahfouz, Sonallah Ibrahim and Gamal al-Ghitani as well as Spoken Egyptian Arabic. Mehrez has received a number of awards which include a Distinguished Visiting Professorship from Northwestern University and Faculty Fellow at Cornell University where she worked as an Assistant Professor of Arabic Language and Literature. She is currently working on two books: Arab Women Writers and the Nation (English) and The Complete Works of Labiba Hashim (1880-1947) with Critical Introduction (Arabic). Professor Mehrez holds a PhD in comparative literature from UCLA.
  • Khaled Abbas: Abbas emigrated to Germany 15 years ago to study history of art in Berlin. He has translated extracts from works by Salah Jahin, Naguib Sorrour and Omar El-Khayam. It was while he was trying to turn these translations into a performance piece that he first realised how little information was available in Germany on Arabic literature. In the mid-nineties he wrote and produced The Arab Chess Game, a play addressing the absence of any real dialogue between East and West, and once again came face to face with the paucity of any understanding of contemporary Arabic literature. In an attempt to bridge the gap Abbas set up the Sphinx Books Agency, with offices in both Berlin and Cairo. Arab authors can submit works to the agency which will undertake marketing in Germany and elsewhere in Europe. Most recently Sphinx Books Agency sold the rights of Khaled El Khamisy’s Taxi to Aflame Books in the UK.
  • Alaa Al Aswany: Al Aswany was born in Cairo in 1957. A dentist, whose first office was in the Yacoubian Building, he has written prolifically for Egyptian newspapers across the political spectrum on literature, politics, and social issues. His second novel, The Yacoubian Building, an ironic depiction of modern Egyptian society, has been widely read in Egypt and throughout the Middle East. It has been translated into English, and was adapted into a film (2006) and a television series (2007) of the same name. Chicago, a novel set in the city in which the author completed his postgraduate education, was published in January 2007. The English translation is published by the AUC Press.

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