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Sharq/Gharb, Arabic publishing venture, brainchild of Europa Editions founders.

In 2005 Sandra Ozzola Ferri and Sandro Ferri of Italian indie publisher Edizioni E/O founded Europa Editions, an English-language press based in New York specializing in translated fiction. Sandra and Sandro’s latest publishing endeavor is perhaps even more ambitious: an Arabic imprint publishing fiction titles, in Arabic, to be distributed in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. The new venture bears the name Sharq/Gharb, a translation of the Italian publishing house’s name E/O (Est/Ovest—East/West)

These three publishing ventures (Edizioni E/O founded in 1979; Europa Editions, 2005; Sharq/Gharb, 2007) share a single objective: to create bridges between peoples through literature. Sharq/Gharb was founded with an even more specific goal in mind: the need to create more opportunities for direct contact between Europe and the Arab world, to encourage two-way exchange between readers and writers belonging to both traditions. Many wonderful writers in the Arab world are not being published in Arabic either because they refuse to bend to the demands of censorship or they suffer the consequences of more general difficulties plaguing the publishing industries in their native countries; an even greater number of fine authors writing in Arabic have never been translated into foreign languages, including English.

Sharq/Gharb was founded as a response to these problems.

The imprint is being directed by Sandro Ferri, founder and editorial director of both Edizioni E/O and Europa Editions, together with Amara Lakhous, an Algerian author (Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator in Piazza Victoria, due out with Europa Editions in 2008) who has been living in Italy for over a decade.

The first book in Arabic to be published by Sharq/Gharb is Elena Ferrante’s The Days of Abandonment, which also inaugurated Europa Editions’ publishing activities and remains one of our best-selling novels. The Days of Abandonment will be followed by Vincenzo Cerami’s Un borghese piccolo piccolo. But the idea behind Sharq/Gharb is not only to publish Italian fiction in Arabic, but to bring the best of European, American, and British fiction to the Arab world and to translate the best contemporary writers working in Arabic into Italian for publication with Edizioni E/O and into English for publication with Europa Editions.

This completes a circuit via which great writing can surmount, with relative fluidity and ease, cultural, linguistic, and national barriers. The publishers’ hope is that this may also generate greater understanding between peoples.

Sharq/Gharb was officially launched at a dinner and presentation held at Papyrus Cafè in Rome this October and in November at the XII Salon International du Livre in Algiers. The next public event dedicated to the new venture will be held at the Casablanca Book Fair, on the 15th of February, 2008.

December 15 2007