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Book World

Annual literary festival returns with focus on Arab literature

Posted: May 4, 2011

By Stephan Delbos - Staff Writer | Comments (0) | Post comment

The annual Svět knihy (Book World) festival returns again this year, with a special focus on Arabic literature and the inauguration of a new prize for the promotion of Czech literature abroad.

The 17th installment of the festival will be held May 12-15 at Výstaviště, with dozens of publishers represented at stalls and dozens of lectures and discussions from Czech and foreign writers. Most of the events are English-language accessible, as many of the guests - including Jaroslav Rudiš, Tahar Ben Jelloun and Arwa Dawud Selayman - will present their talks in English or will be interpreted.

Dana Kalínová, director of the festival, says that despite the recurring focus of Book World on literature and publishing, the challenge has been to keep the festival relevant by offering something new each year.

"The Arabic literary world will be introduced at the book fair in Prague for the first time on such a large scale, and we hope it will attract Czech readers and a large public to learn more about this world, to meet writers and attend debates that will include contemporary, dynamic life in the Arab region," she says.

Book World
When: May 12-15
Where: Veletržní palác
Tickets: 50-200 Kč

Writers from the Arab world have been the subject of intense focus in recent months, as revolutions sweep across countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. Yet translation from Arabic into Czech - and even into English - remains a burgeoning field of scholarship, a fact Kalínová hopes Book World will help remedy.

"We felt the chance to do more on behalf of Czech Orientalists, Arabists, translators and scholars who continuously work on the study of the Middle East from all points of view - political, literary, social and geographical - and in collaboration with them to inform Czech people about Arabic literature and its significant writers of past and present," she says.

The newest development at this year's festival is the inauguration of the Jiří Theiner Prize for the promotion of Czech literature abroad, which will be awarded this year to Andrzej Jagodzinski, a Polish writer and translator of literature, including the work of Milan Kundera, to Polish.

"Theiner worked at the Index on Censorship for a long time. His colleagues and editors will come to Prague to celebrate the first year of the prize with us," Kalínová says.

In keeping with the changing world of publishing, this year's Book World will also feature a segment dedicated to electronic reading devices and Internet publication. According to Kalínová, despite the fact that production and sales of electronic readers is not as high in the Czech Republic as in other European cities, "we must watch trends in this field more carefully."

Other events at the festival are of lighter fare, including a competition among children testing their knowledge of books, book signings and a presentation of Arabic fairytales. In the shifting literary and cultural climate of Prague, Book World is one festival that is consistently interesting and inviting.

Stephan Delbos can be reached at

Tags: book world, festivals in prague, czech republic, czech, literary news, literature, arab culture, arab writers, svet knihy.

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