Amherst Panel Conversation Raises Awareness about Contemporary Arabic Literature

The Common panel participantsThree of the six panelists (left to right): Michel S. Moushabeck, founder of Interlink Publishing; John Siciliano, executive editor at Penguin Random House; and Jennifer Acker '00, founder and editor-in-chief of The Common
Photo by Steven Tagle

Roughly 3 percent of books published in the U.S. every year are works in translation.

Of that 3 percent, only about 4.3 percent are translated from Arabic.

How often do you read books in English that have been translated from other languages? Chances are, not often. Have you ever read a book in English that was translated from Arabic? Chances are, you haven't. Statistically speaking, your chances of finding any work in translation—works from the Arab world in particular—on the shelves of your local bookstore are minimal.

Roughly 3 percent of books published in the U.S. every year are works in translation; of that 3 percent, only about 4.3 percent are translated from Arabic. This spring, Jennifer Acker '00, founder and editor-in-chief of Amherst's literary magazine The Common, moderated a panel conversation at Amherst about contemporary Arabic fiction and began by citing these bleak statistics (which come from publisher Chad Post, who provided them to Publishers Weekly for this article).

"Our hope," Acker explained, "is that all of our collective efforts as readers and writers, community members and publishers ... can help to increase that number."

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