'Twilight' arrives in the Arabic world
ABU DHABI // Twilight, the vampire romance of Edward Cullen and Isabella Swan that has gripped readers the world over, is to be published for the first time in Arabic. New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn followed. The saga, written by American author Stephenie Meyer, will be in shops across the country within 10 days.
To date the saga has sold more than 42 million copies worldwide. A big-screen adaptation of Twilight released last year cemented the novels' popularity; a New Moon adaptation has been filmed and is due out this November. Thanks to Haissam Fadel, marketing manager at the Arab Cultural Centre in Morocco and head of the newly established Sama Publishing house, Arabic-language readers can now fully embrace the Twilight phenomenon.
"Adult and teenage fiction in the form of novels in Arabic is something very new in the Arab world - very rare and almost unheard of in Arabic literature," Mr Fadel said. "We definitely lack this kind of fiction, and as a publisher, I'm always on the lookout for something that will make an impact on the Arabic literary scene." Mr Fadel, a Lebanese who has lived all his life in Morocco, was in a bookstore last year when he noticed the distinctive, thick black book with the austere touches of red and white that made Twilight and the other three in the series stand out.
"I had heard a lot about this novel that was on all the bestseller lists, so I bought it and read it in just a couple of days," Mr Fadel said. "I thought to myself, 'Wow, this is something different!' I researched the agent, made an appointment to sit down and talk at the Frankfurt Book Fair last year in October, and negotiated to buy the Arabic-language rights to all four novels." Mr Fadel saw something special in the Twilight series.
"In fact, we set up Sama Publishing, a division of the Arab Cultural Centre, specifically to publish the Twilight series. We want to start a publishing house that deals with novels for youth. There is a whole untapped market out there," he said. Although Twilight and its three sequels: New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn, have been translated into 37 languages with more than 42 million copies sold around the world, Arabic has only recently joined the list.
Four different translators were hired to translate the four books, and the first copies of Twilight in the Arabic version are barely a week old. "Of course, it would have been better to use one translator for all four books, but we wanted all the books to be readily available to customers," said Mr Fadel. Maha al Ahmed from Palestine is planning to use her summer holiday this year to bury herself in the Twilight series, before school resumes for her in autumn.
The 15-year-old student said she had already read all four books three times, and had no qualms about embarking on a fourth reading. "My friends and I are such huge fans; Edward Cullen is our life," she said, owning up to the fact that she has signed up on multiple Twilight fansites, as well as active on Facebook pages that are dedicated to the book and to the movie. "It's so cool that the book will be translated into Arabic. Maybe now my mom will read it and get it when I tell her that it's the best book ever," said Maha.
Twilight fans have been consistent in expressing an interest in the release of the book in the Arabic language, eager to see if there will be any changes to tone or style from the original. Zahra al Qasem has read the books in English but plans on rereading them in Arabic as soon as she can get her hands on a copy. "My first language is Arabic, so I think I'll enjoy the books even more if I can read them in my language," she said.
"Now that I know an Arabic version is coming out, I think I'll be checking bookstores on a daily basis!" Some of Abu Dhabi's and Dubai's major bookstores had not yet heard that Twilight can now be ordered in Arabic. "The English copies of Twilight and the other books in the series have always done very well, said Bala Subramanian, the chief buying officer for Magrudy's. "If it really is coming out in Arabic, then we would definitely want to stock it in our bookstores."
Angelo Perera, sales manager at Kinokuniya bookstore in Dubai Mall, has already been in touch with Mr Fadel to obtain copies of Twilight in Arabic, which is entitled Al Shafaq. "We have the book in English, French, German. Of course we have to have it in Arabic," said Mr Perera. "It is definitely going to sell well in the UAE. We can predict that just from how well it's selling in English." Other major bookstores such as Dar al Hikma, Jarir, and the University bookshops have placed orders with Sama Publishing, and are awaiting the books within the next few weeks.
By the end of July, the Arabic copies of New Moon and Eclipse will also be available in bookstores across the Middle East and North Africa, closely followed in August by Breaking Dawn. Mr Fadel said he was sure the Arabic versions of the books would be a success. "Of course, it is difficult to predict sales as the book is just now reaching shelves and has only been out for three or four days, but I expect it to do well," said Mr Fadel.
"When we bought the rights, we knew we'd do good things with it. It may be targeted at teenage readers, but anyone can read it, as they did worldwide, and I see no reason why it'd be any different in Arabic." Mr Fadel disclosed that he was attempting to bring Ms Meyer to the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair of March 2010, where the new Arabic series will be exhibited, to sign books and greet fans.
"It would be such a big push for the Arabic version," said Mr Fadel. She has a very busy schedule, but we're trying to convince her and we're keeping our fingers crossed. If she were to come to the UAE, she could do wonders for the Arabic version of this very popular series." firstname.lastname@example.org
Updated: June 26, 2009 04:00 AM