Al-Ahram Weekly Online   29 July - 4 August 2004
Issue No. 701
Books Supplement
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875

Frankfurt in the cultural press

"If we review the participants' names it becomes necessary to make a number of observations. Among these is the puzzling absence of important names [including Tareq El-Bishri, Nasr Hamed Abu Zeid and Ezzeddin Ismail]... The absence of these names takes away from the credibility of the list, since the terms of the agreement specified the necessity of representing all Arab perspectives including oppositional figures... Yet the list ignores such names as Sonalla Ibrahim, the novelist who refused to receive the award of the Egyptian Culture Council's Conference of Creativity in the Novel, making a public statement of his apology. The list also ignores such significant novelists as Allaa El-Dib and Khairi Shalabi, to mention but two of the best known... Important poets like Farouq Shousha, Mohamed Ibrahim Abu Senna, Hassan Teleb and Helmi Salem are replaced by [establishment names] like Ahmed Abdel-Moti Hegazi, Farouq Guweida and Abdel-Rahman El-Abnoudi... It is equally significant that the same names recur in different lists, with Abdel-Ghaffar Mekkawi appearing in 'Scholars and scientists' as well as 'Publishers' and 'Copyright and translation experts'. Likewise Abdel-Wahab El-Mesiri appears in both 'Children's Literature' and 'Thinkers'.

"Neither can one fail to notice that the organisational principles of the Cairo Book Fair dominate the programme, with the period from 10.30am to 6.30pm crammed full of seminars, one of which has nine panellists speaking in 90 minutes, giving each less than ten minutes to put forth..."

--Tareq Al-Taher, Akhbar Al-Adab on 11 July

"The Arab League had last week admitted that the fund allocated to Frankfurt is suffering a 70 per cent deficit, Arab countries having paid no more than 30 per cent of the budget, which is estimated at $4.6 million. The Arab League called on the Arab institutions... to take the initiative to make contributions to the fund... Arab publishers meeting on the fringe of the Abu Dhabi Book Fair expressed their concern that the Arab contribution to the Frankfurt Book Fair should fail to live up to expectations due to delays in preparations and the budget deficit. The result would be, in the words of the well-known publisher Riyad Al-Rayyis, 'a cultural setback'... The problem is that time is passing, it is almost time for the opening of the exhibition, and the unified Arab nation, notwithstanding its eternal message for humanity and the inexhaustible oil fields in its possession, remains incapable of collecting $4.6 million with which to defend Arab culture and present it to a world that stigmatises us as a nation that rides camels and rears crocodiles on the streets of its capital cities."

-- Ahmed Farghali Radwan, Al-Qahira on 13 July

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