The Frankfurt Fair
Of all my preoccupations the next round of the Frankfurt International Book Fair is the most pressing, not least because the Arab world is being highlighted at what is probably the most important publishing event in the world. My concern is whether or not, or perhaps to what extent, the Arab League will manage to offer a comprehensive, balanced picture of Arabic literature from its dawn in the Arab peninsula to the present.
The League is under pressure to provide only an official, state sanctioned picture of that literature. But it is well known that Arab governments maintain facades that seldom reflect the reality of life in their countries, and I fear that it will be the figures who constitute these facades that will represent the Arab world at this important event.
Yet the fact that it will be the Arab League, rather than the region's actual regimes, that will supervise Arab participation offers some room for optimism. Perhaps, through the League's intervention, the culture ministries of the regimes in question will be forced to provide a truly representative picture of Arabic literature. Such, at least, is my hope. Nothing would be worse than turning such a significant event into a vehicle for official propaganda. Arab success at the Fair therefore depends on creating and maintaining an Arab League committee the members of which are independent intellectuals rather than official spokespeople.
Based on an interview by Mohamed Salmawy.