Two weeks filled with Norwegian literature in Cairo - Norway Guest of Honour at the world’s largest Arabic book fair

From 24 January to 6 February 2024, Norway was a Guest of Honour at the Cairo International Book Fair. The fair, which is primarily a public event, had close to 5 million visitors and the press attention surrounding the Norwegian authors in the program was enormous. A total of 20 authors, translators and professionals from Norway participated. The Norwegian Guest of Honour program comprised 70 events, and was opened by HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit.

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From the left: Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide, Egypt’s Minister of Culture Neveen Youssef Mohamed Al-Kilany, HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit at the opening of the Norwegian Guest of Honour stand. Hanne Ørstavik in conversation with a reader, and Eldrid Johansen with Girlskate.no. Photo: Ahmed Raafat.

The book fair is a cultural meeting place with a broad programme of authors and book sales for the public, as well as a extensive conference programme targeting the trade audience.

Egypt has a very young population and there is a considerable need for good books for children and young people. Norway has a lot to offer in this area. NORLA wanted to emphasize the importance of creating a desire to read in children and young people, and we invited the Norwegian Children’s Book Institute (NBI) as partner in the project. With NBI on the team, NORLA had the opportunity to expand the programme during the fair. NBI prepared a broad professional as well as a large reading programme from Norwegian and Sámi literature targeting children and young people. The reading programme was particularly well received by the young book fair audience.

In addition, MUNCH was a partner that contributed to increasing knowledge about Edvard Munch, including visualization of his works at the Norwegian stand. Translator Sherin A. Wahab was engaged by NORLA as project consultant for the Guest of Honour project. The Norwegian Embassy in Cairo also assisted in the project.

The venture as a Guest of Honour in Egypt has given NORLA the opportunity to develop a network in a market where Norwegian literature has great potential. We have facilitated better access to translators from Norwegian into Arabic, and have been able to contribute to exchange and dialogue between the Arabic and Norwegian literary worlds. This was particularly evident during audience events with the Norwegian writers, who in most of the programme posts were coupled with an Arabic writer.

We look forward to following up this venture by further developing contact with Egyptian publishers. We are making it possible for more authors to be introduced to an Arabic-speaking audience at future events and for Egyptian authors to be able to meet audiences in Norway, including an Arabic event in Oslo in 2025.

Terje Tvedt about the Nile. Photo: Ahmed Raafat.
From NORLA's book trade seminar.
From left: Anette Garpestad (Cappelen Damm Agency), Marit Alette Utsi (Davvi Girji), Nourhan Rashad (Al Dar Al Masriah Al Lubnaniah Publishing), Evy Tillman (Oslo Literary Agency), Fatimah Abbas (Publishing Consultant), and Oliver Møystad (NORLA). Photo: Ahmed Raafat.
Poems by Jon Fosse were read by Nesma Elborai, with Mohamed Abozekry on oud.
Photo: Ahmed Raamat.
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HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit was given a tour of the bookstore Diwan. Here with Diwan’s director Amal Mahmoud. Photo: Ahmed Raafat
A crash course in Ibsen, by Nina Marie Evensen from the Centre for Ibsen Studies at the University of Oslo. Photo: Ahmed Raafat.
Jostein Gaarder has a large number of readers also in the Arabic speaking world. He took part in the official opening of the Norwegian Guest of Honour programme. Photo: Ahmed Raafat.
Eldrid Johansen sings Norwegian songs on the book fair’s outdoor stage, accompanied by Rami Amatallah. Photo: Ahmed Raafat.
MUNCH was partner in the Guest of Honour project. Photo: Ahmed Raafat.
Author Karen Anne Buljo meeting the Egyptian audience. Photo: Ahmed Raafat.
The book fair attracts many young visitors. Photo: Ahmed Raamat.
Norwegian books in Arabic translation on display at Diwan’s bookstore stand. Photo: Ahmed Raafat.
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Author Mohamad Al Mofty interviewed about his novel "The Dark Dance", which is published in Arabic translation. (Original title in Norwegian is "Den mørke dansen"). Photo: Ahmed Raafat.

Read more

You can find the entire Norwegian Guest of Honour programme here.
Read more about the participants from Norway and Egypt, and also our partners, here.
The information is also available in Arabic.