Women and Arabic Literature: News from Cairo and Casablanca

The report catalogued 3,304 new publications in 2016, including 497 academic journals (it excluded textbooks, manuals and publications in the hard sciences). “Serious” literature is, in most languages, a male-dominated business. 11 – 16 — put its focus on women writers, with 30 of the 50 writers identifying as women. There are some exceptions, such as the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, steered by the eminent Samia Mehrez. Advertisements

Share this:TwitterFacebookEmailPrintLinkedInRedditGoogleTumblrPinterestPocketLike this:Like Loading…‹ Sunday Submissions: Paid Opportunity for Writers from Seven ‘Banned’ CountriesCategories: women About a quarter of all books are self-published, and 86 percent of the authors are male.*
This year is also   the first — in a ten-year history — that the judging panel for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction   was dominated by women. *Bolding mine. Literary works make up the highest percentage of the publications (25 percent), followed by writing on the law (14 percent) and religion (10 percent). Award-winning Egyptian novelist May Telmissany reportedly said at her panel: “I do not believe literature has a sex.”
Meanwhile, in Ursula Lindsay’s report from the Casablanca Book Fair, which   also took place mid-February, she gave numbers from a new report on publishing in Morocco that suggested women’s writing remains a minority pursuit:
The King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Human Sciences and Islamic Studies—a Saudi-funded association and library dedicated to encouraging research in the Maghreb region—has just issued its second report on publishing in Morocco. But as has been the case most years, there is only one woman’s book on the shortlist,   Najwa Binshatwan’s   The Slaves’ Pens,   with Renée Hayek’s   The Year of the Radio   not advancing. The internationally acclaimed Palestinian novelist Sahar Khalifeh is the judging chair, and there was some noise on social media about whether this meant women’s writing would be favored. Literary works translated into English have hovered around a 70-30 split:
Exotic and kitchsy? This year’s Cairo Literature Festival — which ran Feb. This often reflects a bias in the source language, and indeed the   Arabic literature of prizes and festivals has generally been the province of   men. It featured some of the language’s leading women writers, including the poet Iman Mersal, who launched her new book,   How to Mend: On Motherhood and its Ghosts. The world of comix has also been a more egalitarian one: While France’s   Angouleme comix prize had its “30 men, women” year, the inaugural CairoComix prizes went to   a majority of women winners. However, according to a report in   Mada Masr,   some participants felt the way in which women’s writing was promoted was “exotic and kitschy,” and with an apparent lack of respect for some of the authors.