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Penguin Random House chief says Arab world ‘has a lot to offer’ in publishing

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There is no denying the diversity of Arab culture, rich in history with a long tradition of storytelling. But it seems that Arab stories are not reaching their target audience in the region and beyond.

At the Frankfurt Book Fair last month, the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center hosted a number of panel discussions exploring how the challenges facing Arabic literature and the Arabic publishing market could be overcome. .

Earlier in May, at the International Congress of Publishing and Creative Industries in Abu Dhabi, concerns about the rise of digital piracy, respect for authors’ intellectual property, reading education and the challenges of distribution were at the forefront of the discussions.

Any reader of Arabic literature will profess that there are challenges around the publishing infrastructure in the Arab world. Simply put, not all books published in Arabic are easily accessible to those who want to read them, and not all Arabic language writers feel their work has the platforms and support it deserves.

However, as evidenced by the impressive turnout at this year’s Sharjah International Book Fair, which runs until Sunday, judging by the sessions, award ceremonies and conversations on the ground, there has a sense of urgency and the regional publishing industry is taking matters into its own hands in heading in the right direction.

Penguin Random House Managing Director Markus Dohle was at the book fair for the first time and commented on the growth and positive energy present during the book festival.

“We’re seeing growth, both in international distribution here, but also in local publishing,” Dohle said. The National.

“The book fair is growing every year and has become a huge international center, for publishing, for publishing executives, for booksellers from all over the world and for readers.”

Dohle’s visit is a sign that big names like Penguin Random House are interested in the area. On the one hand, some of the company’s titles, such as the long-awaited memoir of Prince Harry Spare, clearly strike a chord in different markets thanks to our common global culture. .

“He’s one of the most interesting and well-known public figures in the world in recent history,” says Dohle. “For us as publishers to be a part of bringing his experiences nationally and globally, family and beyond, to the world is an honor.”

On the other hand, Penguin Random House is also keen to support local culture and voices, whether that means engaging in publishing opportunities or exploring the region’s literary landscape and writing talent. .

“In publishing, it’s always one book at a time, one story at a time,” says Dohle.

“We are used to bringing international voices to the region, but we are learning to understand the local culture, local writing talent and the writing community. And we need time to find the best voices that we then hope to bring to the world.

Storytelling is tied to the human experience, a way to overcome challenges, create connections and understand the world around us. But that can’t happen if the books aren’t published, and a lack of diversity in the industry is a major challenge here in the Arab world.

In the context of Arabic writing, especially Arabic fiction, concerning both books in translation and books by writers from the Arab diaspora, there simply isn’t enough.

At Hisham Matar The return won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography, Omani author Jokha Alharthi Celestial bodies won the International Man Booker Prize in 2019, the collection of poetry by Lebanese writer Zeina Hashem Beck O was published this year in the Penguin Poets series, making her the first Arab poet to do so. These graphic novels and a number of recently released graphic novels and young adult fiction are just the beginning of what should be a larger and more diverse literary selection of what Arab writers have to offer.

Dohle says that to see real, organic diversity, change must start internally within the publishing houses themselves.

“We have publishing houses around the world on six continents in more than 25 countries,” he says.

“Over time, our community must represent the population of the society, the nation and the culture. Once we achieve this goal, we will be able to attract more diverse editing and writing talent, and with that more diverse stories. Once we have that, we can publish more diverse stories to a more diverse audience. But it starts with us.

In recent years, social media has helped bring issues of diversity, particularly in fiction, to the forefront of discussion about books and reading. Author Corinne Duyvis coined the now-industry staple #OwnVoices hashtag to highlight books where the creators or main characters come from underrepresented or marginalized communities.

In 2020, #PublishingPaidMe was a social media campaign on Twitter where writers shared book advancements online. The viral campaign revealed significant pay disparities and inequalities in advancement and opportunity between writers of color and white writers.

Also in 2020, The New York Times published How white is the book industry?an article revealing that of 7,124 books published by major publishing houses between 1950 and 2018, 95% were written by white authors.

The diversity of authors and stories at major publishing houses has increased in recent years, but there is no quick fix to this obvious imbalance.

“We are making progress,” Dohle said. “It’s not a sprint. It’s a marathon. But I think we’ve finally gotten tangible and measurable about it and I think that’s a big step that the industry has never taken before.

The publishing industry is one of those rare businesses where creativity and commerce meet. And while it may seem like streaming platforms might be competing with reading, it has actually helped give a platform to diverse voices and inspired a return to reading.

“10 or 15 years ago, we had maybe 10 or 15 stories that were translated into video content,” says Dohle. “Today? It’s well over 100 because of the growth of video through streaming, and people watching these shows, they go back to the original story, and they buy and read the book.

boobies rich asian, To all the boys I’ve loved before and Bridgertonto name a few, are all commercially and critically acclaimed movies and shows that have been adapted from novels and entice audiences to read the original source material.

So it seems natural that with diverse voices from around the world carving their way into the mainstream and connecting with an audience, it’s only a matter of time before stories from the Arab world and about the world Arab, by Arabs, do the same.

“I always say money gets jealous and follows the best stories,” Dohle says.

“We need to find the most compelling writers, help them perfect their stories and the package, and then launch it out into the world.

“And I think this area has a lot to offer, both in fiction and non-fiction because of the rich history and culture here.”

Scroll through the gallery below to see 19 graphic novels set in the Middle East

Updated: November 13, 2022, 04:43