x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Egyptian novelist to lecture at Oxford

Al Ghitani will speak at inaugural Sheikh Zayed Award event at one of Britain's leading universities.

ABU DHABI // The Egyptian author Gamal al Ghitani believes Arab literature should be making a bigger impression on the Western world, especially Britain. Next week he will have an opportunity to address the issue when he speaks at the inaugural Sheikh Zayed Book Award Lecture at one of Britain's leading universities. St Antony's College, Oxford, will host the two-hour lecture, panel discussion and book signing on Thursday at the school's Middle East Centre.

Mr al Ghitani, the winner of the 2009 book award, said he was happy to be making a presentation in the UK: "The publishing houses there don't care about Arab literature or our stories."There is more interest in France, for example. Therefore, I am very happy to be presenting our literature in Oxford. "I believe through my work and the work of other winners we can make a global impression" Mr al Ghitani, a novelist and political commentator, has published more than 60 works and is the editor of the literary newsletter Akhbar al Adab.

Speaking alongside Mr al Ghitani will be Abdulla al Ghadami, a member of the award's advisory council. It will be the first time a council member has spoken about the book award outside the Arab region in an academic environment. Fellows, students, Arab ambassadors and members of the UK media will be invited to the event. Rashed al Oraimi, the secretary general of the award committee, said he hoped the session would lead to "fruitful co-operation" with Oxford.

"The award provides a platform to showcase and expand the Arab culture. We believe that Oxford will open the channels for an influential and sophisticated dialogue with the European academia." The Sheikh Zayed Book Award, with prizes of Dh7 million (US$1.9m), was established in 2006 under the patronage of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage. It is presented each year to Arab writers, intellectuals and publishers whose writings are judged to have enriched Arab cultural, literary and social life.

Eugene Rogan, the director of the Middle East Centre at Oxford, welcomed the cultural exchange. "There's a lot of interest in Europe for writing from the Middle East," he said. "There are many examples of people who have broken into the market through translations, but there's a need for much more. "The Sheikh Zayed Book Award is an excellent way to deliver, and that is where we come in." @Email:aseaman@thenational.ae