What is the point of promoting Arabic literature, if it is to silence it once it is translated? – I stand with Adania Shibli

17 October 2023 91 views No Comment Email This Post Email This Post Print This Post Print This Post

Screenshot 2023-10-16 at 5.31.37 PMThe Frankfurt Book Fair unfolds as we speak, yet many professionals of the book industry, like myself, have decided to withdraw, and more still have signed open letters. This one, put together by Marcia Lynx Qualey and Olivia Snaij, has to date gathred over 600 signatures by some of the most intellectual prestigious names of our industry.

Below is the statement I shared across RAYA agency’s network on Sunday.



Dear friends and colleagues,

I was so looking forward to meeting many of you at Frankfurt to tell you, like every year, about the beautiful books on my list. But in light of Frankfurt Book Fair’s decision to postpone the ceremony of Palestinian author Adania Shibli’s Literaturpreis 2023 award, I feel compelled to cancel my participation as a sign of protest.

I condemn any form of violence, and believe in the power of literature to change the world. This is why RAYA came to see the light of day 19 years ago.

I find FBF’s decision to postpone Shibli’s award ceremony inadmissible, even more so that this decision was not taken in agreement with the author.

That the institution which is the epitome of cultural exchange through translation rights in the world, would decide not to give her award to Shibli in a timely manner because of political events, is, in my opinion, an unacceptable error of judgment.

Adania Shibli is a renown author, residing in Germany and Jerusalem, whose work “A minor detail”, was acclaimed as a gem of contemporary literature by international critics worldwide.

I am grateful to FBF to have invited me to take part to a panel on selling Arabic literature rights, and for their support throughout the years.

But FBF’s decision regarding Shibli makes me wonder : What is the point of promoting Arabic literature, if it is to silence it once it is translated? It is precisely in these difficult circumstances that brave books like Adania Shibli’s should be honored, not shunned.

As a literary agent for Arabic literature, I am sadly familiar with the concept of silenced voices. I find it dreadful that Arab voices would be silenced in countries that should be beacons and havens of free speech.

I stand in solidarity with the author Adania Shibli and her German publisher Berenberg Verlag.

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