I have barely dipped my toe into the books-in-English section of the Fair, which is enormous, but I have done a quick skim through with a desire to find a book from the region. At the Bloomsbury stand I chatted to the publisher, who runs the new Doha outfit of the house. He directed me to Nothing to Lose But Your Life by Suad Amiry:
A tomboy at heart, driven by adventure and a desire to understand what her less privileged compatriots go through, architect and university professor Suad Amiry disguises herself as a man and crosses the Israeli border illegally to seek work in the Israeli town of Petah Tikva. The 18-hour journey that she braves with Murad and his brother Mohammed starts with a bumpy late night ride in a bus crammed with other illegal workers – all men – whose endless stories are both horrifying and amusing. “Nothing to Lose But Your Life” is a vivid account of a grueling journey but also a lamentation for lost land and for simpler, more peaceful times.
Fittingly, it is the first title that Bloomsbury Qatar has released – the first of hopefully many titles that were written in the Middle East and translated into English.
There has been a fair bit of talk about translation during the Book Fair so far. It’s obvious to me that people who live in this region read (and consume media generally) from a wide range of sources, either in multiple languages or through translations. That’s something that sadly I think English-speaking countries are slack at. To me it feels like the bulk of international books available in Australia were written in English (usually British or American) and seeing translations is much rarer. For shame! I think it’s especially sad that Aussies don’t read more from the Asia-Pacific region…
I’m really looking forward to discovering a wealth of Arabic literature while I’m here in Sharjah.