Sofia Translation Forum addresses literary exchange between the Balkans and the Arab world

Photo: Next Page foundation

The first „Sofia Translation Forum 2017. Enhancing literary translations between Arabic and the languages of the Balkans“ was held 3-4 June 2017, at the House of Europe and Sofia Literature and Translation House. Official speeches were delivered by Hatem Atallah, director of Anna Lindh Foundation, Ludmila Dimitrova, director of the State Institute for Culture by Minister of Foreign Affairs (Bulgaria) and Yana Genova, director of Next Page Foundation (Bulgaria).

The forum sought to map out common topics and directions in the literature of the Balkans and the Arab world and consequently create mechanisms for their presentation to the readers in the two regions. Despite viable Arabic studies schools in the Balkans, translations of contemporary literature have seen a major decline in the aftermath of democratic changes in some of the Balkan countries. In turn, the Arab world also lacks in mediators with the Balkan cultures. With this first forum Bulgaria has shown its potential to be an initiator of a process of exchange of ideas and literature.

The Forum participants drew up an overview of the translation and publishing landscapes on the Balkans and in some Arab-speaking countries, debated on common concerns in contemporary literature and on translation challenges, and presented instruments for promoting literature in translation.

Khaled Alkhamissi, writer and director of Cairo Library, the translators Hakan Özkan, Srpko Leštarić, Bayan Rayhanova, Hayri Hamdan, as well asprof. Alexander Kiossev, Sofia University, Manol Peykov, Janet 45 Publishers (Bulgaria) were among keynote speakers.

“Hopefully this event is one way to contribute to the process of changing attitudes and offsetting prejudices between the Balkans and the Arab world. In fact the reading public both here and there has almost zero access to translations of contemporary literature. The Forum in Sofia seeks to encourage mutual interest – first, among professionals in book publishing: publishers, translators, literary agents. We are aimed at establishing sustainable direct partnerships which in the future will result in translations of Balkan literature into Arabic that will be more visible for the reading public”, said Yana Genova, director of Next Page Foundation, the organizer of the Sofia Translation Forum 2017.