Nigel Fletcher-Jones, director of American University in Cairo Press, wants to move Arabic fiction more solidly into the world market. A key part of that plan is launching a new fiction imprint, Hoopoe, named after the regional desert bird.
Fletcher-Jones said that the mission of the new imprint is to try to “accurately reflect what is going on in the Middle East, from the Middle East,” and that “AUC is in a prime position to accomplish this.” AUC has done “worthy literature” for many years, Fletcher-Jones said, works that are “deeply philosophical,” but also “deeply depressing.”
Originally an academic publisher, AUC Press now publishes Arabic fiction translated into English. According to Trevor Naylor, associate director, sales and marketing, the transition to broaden its focus beyond academic titles began when AUC Press started releasing the novels of Nobel Prize–winner Naguib Mahfouz. The press has published or licensed 600 foreign-language editions in 40 languages of Mahfouz’s work.
AUC Press has always been at the forefront of introducing Arab authors, but with Hoopoe, the press is aiming for a worldwide audience. Managing editor Nadine El-Hadi explained that Hoopoe will publish Arab writers from across the Arab world: Arab writers living abroad, and those writing in languages other than Arabic. In addition, the imprint is also open to books with story lines set in the Middle East. Hoopoe’s books will be available worldwide: through Oxford University Press in North America, its own distribution network in Egypt, and elsewhere through distributor IB Tauris.
Cairo-based marketing manager Basma El Manialawi said Hoopoe will feature a range of books including crime thrillers and dystopian novels. The press is launching with four Spring titles. One of the first, The Televangelist (Mar.) by Ibrahim Essa, is a satire about a television celebrity preacher who becomes embroiled in scandal. The book has been shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, also known as the “Arabic Booker,” as has another title from the press: A Rare Blue Bird Flies with Me (Apr.), by Moroccan novelist and screenwriter Youssef Fadel, set in modern Morocco.
Time of White Horses (Mar.), also shortlisted for the Arabic Booker, written by Ibrahim Nasrallah, is the story of three generations of Palestinians during the collapse of Ottoman rule. Abdelilah Hamdouchi’s Whitefish (Mar.) is a police procedural about migrants who entered Tangier illegally. Six titles are planned for the fall list.
AUC Press, founded in 1960, also publishes illustrated books of architecture, religious culture, and ancient art, as well as history, cookbooks, classics, and travel journals about Egypt. The launch of Hoopoe is expected to bring modern Arabic fiction to a larger audience. As El Manialawi said, “We’re seeking fresh writing from Marrakech to Baghdad and Khartoum to Aleppo. Under the new imprint, we will publish fiction that challenges headlines, reimagines histories, and celebrates original storytelling.”