SIBF 2020 opening a window to the world through literary translations

Sharjah, November 6, 2020

The ongoing 39th Sharjah International Book Fair where 1,024 publishers are displaying millions of titles, aptly showcases the dynamic nature of cultural and linguistic diversity, and offers a first-hand experience of globalisation in the book market through the numerous literary translations of books in Arabic from different languages.

Occupying pride of place at the Al Mahrousa Centre for Publishing in Hall 4 at Expo Centre Sharjah are the 10 volumes of Hadashi no Gen (Barefoot Gen), a graphic and moving account of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and its aftermath. The late manga artist, Keiji Nakazawa, who drew on the experiences of his own life to tell the story of his city’s atomic destruction in 1945, published the work in the 1970s which was serialised in several magazines.

“Manga – one of Japan’s most popular cultural exports and a major part of Japan’s publishing industry – has a loyal audience amongst Arab youth,” said Mohammad Fawzy, Media & Communication Officer at Cairo’s Mahrousa Centre, adding that Barefoot Gen is the company’s bestselling book across the MENA region.

He added: “Manga is an engaging literary format, and its graphic and narrative techniques have a tremendous appeal particularly with young adults, boosting their interest in Japanese culture.”

What makes the Barefoot Gen so popular, he adds, is that it is told from the perspective of a young child and is a gut-wrenching survival story of a seven-year-old boy, whose father and siblings were killed. “Although the book touches upon a painful chapter in world history, it brings to light how war affects children – whichever part of the world they are – and inherent within it is the uplifting message of peace.”

The book was translated into Arabic by Maher Elsherbini, a professor at Cairo University who specialises in the Japanese language, he added.

With plenty of translated works from Germany, France, Malta, Brazil, and the US, the publisher also has a choice of classics featuring the works of celebrated novelists including John Steinbeck, Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde, Franz Kafka, and Albert Camus, amongst others.

He added: “Also popular with the Arab audience is the recently translated Batman Noir: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore which takes on the origin of comics’ greatest super-villain, The Joker. We will be translating more works from this series soon.”

Written in a mixture of prose and verse, and in a simple and direct style, the collection of tales of wisdom in Indian author Vishnu Sharma’s widely translated, Panchatantra, is another popular translated work, he added.

The unmissable opportunity to access these titles and thousands more can be grabbed until November 14. Expo visitors must pre-book fixed 3-hour (renewable) visitation slots at