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Encounters. Encouraging translations flow between East European languages and Arabic

Sunday 28 September 2008

This new program of Next Page aims to create conditions for a cultural dialogue beyond the traditional East/West dichotomy by encouraging translations in both directions between Arabic and Turkish, and the languages of Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

The initiative is a continuation of an earlier pilot project of Next Page that – in cooperation with the Sphinx book agency from Cairo, supported the translation of 11 titles by East European authors into Arabic. The pilot demonstrated that cultural actors from both regions identify a cluster of topics of common interest ranging from historical ones (such as Ottoman history and legacy, the political project of socialism, etc) to current social issues such as citizens’ participation deficit, sense of political and cultural marginalization, recent experience of war and displacement, immigration, vast social transformations, women rights, the role of religion and the market, etc. Last but not least, Eastern Europe of today and particularly the new EU member states are just starting to develop a new interest in the global South due to the growing emigration from these countries. If not backed up with conditions for an intense intellectual and cultural dialogue, these contacts will remain framed by the narrow security or economic considerations.

In publishing terms, while being vastly different in almost all other ways, quality publishers from both regions face similar challenges associated with the current “translation economy” in which English is the preferred language of mediation as much in publishing as it is in global communication in general. But the range of authors, titles and topics that are available in English translation do not neccessarilly reflect the cultural demands of other audiences outside UK and US. The program will thus seek to create more direct paths for cultural communication across linguistic and national borders between Eastern Europe and its southern neighbours in the Arab region.


The program will encourage translations in both directions – from Arabic into East European languages and from these languages into Arabic by supporting mutual translations of contemporary prose, esseys and texts in humanities. Since the mere provision of a limited number of mutual translations - while a desirable aim in itself – will have a limited impact, our approach will supplement the grant scheme with other activities such as direct encounters of key organizations (at workshops, fairs and other events) and a survey of the translation policies in both regions (including Turkey).

The program will create a forum for discussion on translations between the two regions, will produce a min of 10 country reports on the state of translations and will ultimately result in the creation of an informal network of publishers, translatiors and other cultural actors with better understanding of the cultural contexts and the literary developments in the participating countries.


The project will focus on the following languages while not excluding others from both regions:

-  Polish, Serbian, Bulgarian, Hungarian, Czech, Romanian, Albanian, Macedonian as well as Croatian/Bosnian.

-  Arabic, with priority partners coming from Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the Maghreb, Palestine, Iraq

-  Turkish


Encounters will seek to cooperate with publishers, literary and cultural organizations, translators and translators associations, cultural periodicals, literary agents and donors from all countries included in the program.


I. Translation Studies

A series of research activities in several focus countries from both regions that will look into the level and quality of translations in both directions (from Arabic to Eastern Europe and the other way around), into the conditions that shape translation policies and choices made by publishers, editors and translators as well as into the reception of these translations. Such “mappings” of translation policies will cover the post-1989 period and will focus on several languages.

In 2010, Next Page joined Transeuropeens and the Anna Lindh Foundation in their project Translation in the Mediterranean. The current studies between Arabic as well as Turkish and 11 languages of Central and Eastern Europe are a continuation of our earlier effords within the Encounters program as well as a component of the first mapping of translation in the Mediterranean, led since 2010 by Transeuropéennes and the Anna Lindh Foundation (Euro-mediterranean Programme for Translation), in partnership with over 15 organisations from all over the Union for the Mediterranean.

See results of the completed 24 studies here.

II. Translation grants

In December 2008 Next Page launched a small translations fund that welcomed applications for individual titles, series of titles or series of journal publications from publishers and cultural journals from both regions.

See resulst from the grants competition for translations from Arabic here.

Results from the grants competition for translations into Arabic - forthcoming.

The Encounters program is made possible due to the support of the OSI MENA program