Greek Writers participate in the 53rd Cairo International Book Fair

Eman Youssef, Saturday 29 Jan 2022

This year's edition of Cairo International Book Fair (CIBF) features Greece as the guest of honour, introducing the works of prominent Greek writers to Egyptian readers and affirming excellent bilateral relations between the two countries.

Alexander Kitroeff's book «The Greeks and the Making of Modern Egypt»

The 53rd edition of the book fair opened on 26 January and runs until 7 February.

Christos Papadopoulos, director of the Greek Cultural Centre in Cairo, stressed the importance of Greek participation in the fair, adding that the cultural relations between Egypt and Greece are “deep and historical.”

Papadopoulos added that the fair includes a discussion on the cultural relations and exchanges between Greece and Egypt since ancient times until now, and the contribution of Greek translators to the spread of Greek culture in Egypt, with the significant participation of Greek Egyptians.

Among the participants is Dimitris Sotakis, who has published ten novels and a collection of short stories. Born in Athens in 1973, his his books have been nominated for many literary prizes in Greece.

"The first thing that comes to my mind regarding my visit to Cairo for the international book fair is that I am extremely enthusiastic to visit Egypt for the first time," said Sotakis, adding that he is thrilled by the idea of seeing and walking around the streets of Cairo. Sotakis emphasised that this chance could not have been better since this is the first time that his novel has been published in Arabic and made available in Egypt.

His novel – The Resurrection of Michael Jackson – initially came out in Greece in 2014. It is a book about modern society's depression, the anxiety within human relationships that we all deal and the constant hunt for happiness, about realising who we are through someone else, even through the images created in our minds. "I am very happy to have such an important publisher as Sefsafa, and another book will follow – The Miracle of Breathing – which has already been translated into more than ten languages," Sotakis told Al-Ahram Weekly.

The Resurrection of Michael Jackson by Dimitris Sotakis

Sotakis will present the book and participate in literary events. "I am excited that Greece is this year's honoured country of the book fair," said Sotakis, adding that both Egypt and Greece have an enormous heritage of literature and they have historical and cultural bonds which unite them throughout the centuries. He is also looking forward to meeting Egyptian readers and starting a relationship with them; "that is a very crucial point on this visit to me," he said.

In 2009 he was awarded the Athens Prize for Literature for The Miracle of Breathing. The same book was a candidate for the European Prize for Literature, as well as for the Jean Monet Award in France. His books are published in French, Italian, Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, and Serbian.

Amanda Michalopoulou, Lida Varvarousi, Persa Koumoutsi, and Alexander Kitroeff are also participating in the fair.

"I am very happy to go back to Egypt, which I consider my second home," said Persa Koumoutsi, emphasising that she will represent both Greece and Egypt in the book fair. "For many years, I was devoted to writing about Greece and Egypt and the literature of the two countries, promoting cultural relations between them for more than thirty years, through translation mainly from Arabic into Greek," she said. Koumoutsi added that she has translated nearly 40 Arabic works into Greek, of which more than half belong to Egyptian creators, including her own writings.

"I am glad that my book Voices of Alexandria has just been translated in Egypt and I will have the opportunity to present it to the Egyptian audience who already knows me through my books – West Nile and A Walk with Najib Mahfouz in the Streets of Cairo – that they loved so much," Koumoutsi said.

Voices of Alexandria by Persa Koumoutsi

She added that the Egyptian readers already know her from her translations of Mahfouz novels and many other Egyptian writers, including Taha Hussein, about whom she will host an event at the fair. Koumoutsi has also translated the novel Doaa Al-Karwan.

Persa Koumoutsi was born in Cairo, Egypt. She moved to Greece in 1983 and for the first few years taught in secondary and higher education. Since 1993 she has been working professionally in literary translation, translating works from Arabic and English into Greek.

In 2001, she was honoured with the Cavafy Prize, while the Egyptian government has awarded her twice for her contribution to the promotion of Egyptian and Arabic literature in general. She has also received a special distinction from the Department of Greek and Latin Studies of Al-Azhar University, among other awards.

Amanda Michalopoulou is an author of eight novels and three short story collections; she has been a contributing editor at Kathimerini in Greece and Tagesspiegel in Berlin. She is a winner of the Revmata Award in 1994, the Diavazo Award for her novel Jantes in 1996 and the Academy of Athens Prize for her short story collection Bright Day in 2013. Her stories and essays have been translated into twenty languages.

Currently, Michalopoulou teaches creative writing in Athens. Her short story Mesopotamia was selected for Best European Fiction 2018 (Dalkey Archive). Michalopoulou was also a fellow at the Iowa International Writers Program.

As for Alexander Kitroeff, he is professor of history at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, where he has been teaching courses on Modern European and Mediterranean history since 1996. Currently, he is working on a project on the history of the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA) to mark the organisation’s centenary in 2022. Among his publications is The Greeks and the Making of Modern Egypt in 2019. He has also collaborated with film director Maria Iliou as historical consultant in several documentary films such as Smyrna 1922: the Destruction of a Cosmopolitan City, and more recently Athens From East to West 1821-1896, the first of a five part series on the city’s modern history.

 Alexander Kitroeff's book «The Greeks and the Making of Modern Egypt»

Lida Varvarousi studied in Vakalo school Art and Design, and worked as an illustrator and art director in advertising companies. She was born in Athens, Greece. Varvarousi has  illustrated 200 books, writing 15 of them. In recent years, she travels with her “Paintellings” – a combination of audio and visual storytelling for children – in schools all over Europe.

The Greek Pavilion will host a number of publications on selected and unique topics, such as State Literature Awards and State Children's Book Awards 2020, special editions and publications of museums and cultural institutions, books translated into Arabic, graphic novels and comics, publications of and about the Greek communities of Egypt.

Special emphasis will be given to the promotion of the new GreekLit translation program, which has already joined the European Network for Literary Translation (ENLIT) and will be officially presented to the Arabic book market in collaboration with the Egyptian  Book Organisation and the National Egyptian Translation Centre. Representatives of Greek publishers will also participate at the invitation of the Egyptian Publishers Association.

Book lovers will also have the opportunity to get to know Greek authors whose books have been recently translated in Egypt. The presentations of their books will be held in collaboration with Egyptian publishers and translators. As an honoured guest country, the program will also include a tribute to the great Alexandrian poet Cavafy, including more than 50 works by and about Cavafy in Arabic, Greek and other languages, ​​as well as a presentation of the Cavafy digital archive by the Onassis Foundation.

The tribute complements an art exhibition of works by contemporary artists inspired by the work and life of Cavafy, curated by Louisa Karapidaki, an honourary event commemorating the great Egyptian thinker and writer Taha Hussein who founded Greek studies in Egypt and throughout the Arab world, a discussion on the bilateral cultural and translational relations between Greece and Egypt from antiquity until today and the contribution of Hellenist-translators to the spread of Greek Culture in Egypt, a discussion on contemporary classical Greek literature on the occasion of the recent publication of the book Comparative Greek Literature in the Light of New Critical Theories and Interdisciplinary Methods by Hisham Darwish, Professor of Greek Language and Literature at Cairo University.

The program also includes the contemporary poetic landscape in Greece and Egypt and the teaching of Greek poetry in the Department of Modern Greek Language and Literature of Cairo University, an event on the Greek Language in Egypt (on the occasion of World Greek Language Day, 9 February) in collaboration with the Cairo Cultural Centre and an educational events for children by Lida Varvarousi, in collaboration with the Onassis Foundation.

Students from Greek schools in Cairo will actively participate in the program of cultural events in collaboration with the Education Coordination Office of North Africa and the Middle East. This will include poetry readings and translation attempts of literary texts.

The Greek participation is organised by the Hellenic Foundation of Culture and the Ministry of Culture and Sports with the support of the embassy of Greece in Cairo. The Hellenic Foundation for Culture collaborated with cultural and educational institutions such as Alexandria Archive, Onassis Foundation, Hellenic Cultural Centre in Cairo, Education Coordination Office of North Africa and the Middle East as well as the Greek Communities of Alexandria and Cairo.

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