Hope For Egypt: Dream Or Reality?

Based On The Theme, Hope: Dream Or Reality?, The 30th International Istanbul Book Fair Is Welcoming Bibliophiles This Month. And Egypt Is Guest Of Honor.

Last year’s guest of honor was Spain. By the end of the fair, which featured interviews with popular Spanish writers Julio Llamazares, Soledad Puertolas and Angelas Caso, we had learned so much about Spanish life and culture that we wondered all year long who the next guest country would be. Finally the day came and it was announced: Egypt. And we realized how little we know about this country we have been following closely in recent months, especially during the 18-day people’s movement.

When it comes to the literature of this sunny land that is striving to turn dream into reality, a single writer comes to mind: Naguib Mahfouz. Egyptian Ambassador to Turkey Abderahman Salaheldin summed it up perfectly when he said, “The situation is deplorable. Very few Egyptian writers have been translated into Turkish apart from Naguib Mahfouz.” But his talk concludes with a big ‘Inshallah’: “Many Egyptian writers are going to come to Istanbul in mid-November, and a public awareness of Egyptian literature is going to develop. Numerous Egyptian publishers have applied to the fair. And many intellectuals, most notably the Egyptian Culture Minister, are going to attend. We are expecting some positive steps to be taken when we meet with Egyptian publishers. In the years to come there is going to be great movement from Arabic to Turkish and Turkish to Arabic. Inshallah!”

To be held at the TÜYAP Fair and Convention Center in Beylikdüzü, the 30th International Istanbul Book Fair offers a tremendous opportunity both for Egyptian literature and for the Turkish reader. Among the writers who will be attending the fair November 12 to 20 are: Alaa Al Aswany, who has reached a large number of readers in Turkish through his book, The Yacoubian Building, Gamal Ghitani, who has been dubbed the spiritual heir of Naguib Mahfouz, Ibrahim Aslan, Egyptian Writers’ Union President Mohamed Salmawy, and Youssef Ziedan. Not confining themselves to merely autographing their books, the writers will also give a number of talks about Egyptian literature.

A wide array of cultural events are just the icing on the cake… One of them is about films adapted from Egyptian literature. Among the films to be screened are: The Land, A Beginning and an End, Scheherezade Tell Me A Story, The Kit Kat and The Yacoubian Building. Surprise surprise! Naguib Mahfouz, the 100th anniversary of whose birth is being celebrated this year, has not been forgotten either. Hope for Egypt: Dream or Reality? It’s still too early to answer this question, but one thing is sure: A lot is going to change very soon in literature and culture.

SNEAK PREVIEW

Alaa Al Aswany
Born in 1957, Aswany studied dentistry in Chicago. Listed as one of the World’s 500 Most Influential Muslims on a list compiled by the Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center, this writer’s ironic novel about modern Egyptian society has been translated into numerous languages including English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Finnish, Norwegian. Polish, Turkish and Greek. The novel was also made into a film in 2006.

Gamal Ghitani
Born in May 1945, Ghitani was editor-in-chief of the prominent literary magazine Akhbar al-Adab until 2011. Starting to write as a boy, Ghitani published his first short story when he was 14. Trained in furniture design, Ghitani was deemed worthy of the Laure Bataillon, one of France’s most prestigious prizes, in 2005 for his work, Book of Illuminations.

Ibrahim Aslan
Born in 1937, Aslan published his first book of short stories, Evening Lake, in 1971. His first novel, Heron, published in Arabic in 1983, was the inspiration for director Daoud Abdel Sayed’s film, The Kit Kat. Aslan is currently cultural editor in the Cairo bureau of the London-based daily Al-Hayat.

Mohamed Salmawy
A leading Egyptian playwright and journalist, Salmawy is at the same time president of the Egyptian Writers Union. The writer, who studied in the Department of English Civilization and History of Birmingham University after graduating in English Language and Literature from the University of Cairo in 1966, is currently Editor-in-Chief of Al-Ahram Hebdo.

Youssef Ziedan
Born June 30, 1958, Ziedan focused on the philosophical foundations of mysticism in his post-graduate studies following graduation from the University of Alexandria’s Department of Philosophy. Currently Director of the Museum and Manuscripts Center of Alexandria Library, he has authored more than 50 books.

 “Many Egyptian writers are going to come to Istanbul in mid-November, and a public awareness of Egyptian literature is going to develop. Numerous Egyptian publishers have applied to the fair. And many intellectuals, most notably the Egyptian Culture Minister, are going to attend."