France is strengthening its support for Arab publishers

Paris. There are just over 430 million speakers of Arabic, making it the fifth most spoken language in the world. Several hundred thousand people speak Arabic in France, and France maintains close ties with many Arabic-speaking countries. But while the French know some Arabic authors, the vast majority of intellectual production in Arabic is never translated. Works related to the novel genre and theology according to the academic journal GIS notebook [Groupement d’intérêt scientifique] No. 4, published in the summer of 2022 (“Translation of humanities and social sciences between Arabic, Turkish and Persian languages”).

Therefore, there are no initiatives for the translation and dissemination of works published in Arabic-speaking countries, especially in the field of human sciences. The Livres des deux rives program also observed that the book market in the Maghreb is poorly established and that France has a role to play in this area. According to Emilie Boucheteil, director of artistic creativity and cultural industries at the French Institute (IF) in Paris, the program “Political push by Emmanuel Macron at the Bi-coastal Summit from 2019” ; is supposed to be strengthened “Cultural Cooperation in the Western Mediterranean”. The President of the Republic also reiterated his support for Maghreb CCIs (cultural and creative industries) during his visit to Algeria in August 2022.

Translation, publishing, broadcasting

With a comfortable budget of 1 million euros over two years, the program also intervenes in translation upstream of publication. As Emilie Boucheteil points out, “French publishers are finding it difficult to identify translators from and into Arabic, and publishers from both coasts are advocating the need to support the professionalization of translators.” ; Thus, several workshops for professional translators have been organized in France and the Maghreb in 2021 and 2022. It’s also a question of attracting new translators, so it’s part of it “Awareness of the challenges of literary translation from Arabic for students and professionals”.

Another part of the program is related to the publication and distribution in France of works written in Arabic in the fields of humanities, literature, comics and children’s literature. Over two years, experts selected by IF Paris received nearly one hundred applications and selected twenty-five works published in the Maghreb. Among them are two comics from the Marseille publishing house Alphabet, directed by Simona Gabrieli. We welcome the support provided by Livres des deux rives, a publisher specializing in Arabic comics, and mentions that the two books are co-published: “From the beginning, it was about publishing comics in Arabic with a small publisher in Tunisia, and in French through my publisher. » The first comic (The Tunisian uprising2021) within the program 6000 euros, the second (Zero point, planned for 2023), about 8000 euros. Simona Gabrieli emphasizes that this amount covers “More specific assistance such as translation, printing costs in Tunisia for the Arabic version, copyright and living expenses for authors visiting France”.Finally, this program allows for professional meetings between Arabic and French publishers, and even between Arab publishers from the Maghreb. “The book sector in the Maghreb is not set up like the ICC, Emilie Boucheteil remembers. Publishers are often small independent structures and the book chain is less established than in France. »

a finding shared by GIS notebook, its authors highlight the difficulty Arab publishers have in distributing their works in their own countries or abroad, and the lack of reliable data given the disorganized publishing sector in the Maghreb. For Simona Gabrieli, she thinks that the same observation is made possible by the meetings in the program “a very effective network. It is like opening a window to the southern Mediterranean countries for French publishers.” He plans now “new collaborations” with other Maghreb publishers. Emilie Boucheteil insists on her side in the reaction “very positive” Arabic and French publishers were satisfied with the meetings and seminars organized by IF Paris.

Livres des deux rives ends in the spring of 2023, but according to Emilie Boucheteil, other initiatives will emerge to continue supporting books in the Arab world. “priority topic” In the Ministry of European and Foreign Affairs. The Elysee also supports the program in the long term, as the president publicly stated in February 2022. “Publishing projects, translation projects that we will continue to advance“.

Although this program has produced good results, the Arab book sector suffers from structural problems that IF Paris cannot solve alone. Among these problems are the lack of attractiveness for Arabic-to-French translation, the very low rates of publishers in the Maghreb, or the focus of French publishers on Arabic novels. Contributors to this last point GIS notebook He notes that between 1989 and 2009, very few works (about thirty) on humanities and social sciences were translated from Arabic. “The Reign of Arabic Fiction” in translated works. As for the translators, the authors believe it “Today there are more Arabic-French translators in France”, is a positive sign for the future.

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