Libmonster ID: SE-358
Author(s) of the publication: V. V. BELYAKOV

Key words: Russia, Egypt, culture, books

V. V. BELYAKOV

Doctor of Historical Sciences

From January 28 to February 13, 2010, Russia participated as an honorary guest in the 42nd Cairo International Book Fair. Various books and thematic expositions were presented in the Russian pavilion; the delegation also included a group of writers. Russian printed materials aroused great interest among the local public and the press, while the Egyptians expressed their wishes that the Russian side pay more attention to the publication of literature in Arabic.

If you ask Egyptian intellectuals what they think is the most important cultural event of the year, nine out of ten will probably say: "The Cairo International Book Fair." The exhibition town where it takes place is comparable in size to the Moscow All-Russian Exhibition Center. Up to 3 million books, mostly in Arabic, are displayed in 11 huge pavilions and numerous tents. To make life easier for visitors to the fair, free buses run from the four main squares of the capital, including the station station, to the fair town, and the railway gives a 50% discount on tickets to Cairo. Egyptians claim that the Cairo Book Fair is second only to the Frankfurt Book Fair in terms of its scale.

The Egyptian leadership pays great attention to books, rightly believing that they remain the main source of knowledge necessary for the country's dynamic development. Since 1991, Egypt has hosted the annual Reading for All festival, timed to coincide with the summer school holidays. His task is to teach children to read the book. Two decades have yielded good results: interest in reading has increased significantly. The Cairo fair is usually visited by about 2 million people, and sometimes even more, and no one leaves without buying, and this is due not only to the huge selection of books, but also to significant discounts on them. Religious and nonfiction literature, as well as textbooks, are in the greatest demand. However, this year there were only a little more than 1.5 million visitors to the fair. According to local sociologists, the increase in the cost of living and the spread of the Internet have affected.

The fair is not only an opportunity to buy a variety of books at a low price. For many visitors, the most attractive part of it is presentations of new publications, meetings with authors, literary evenings, round tables, and both on cultural issues and on various topical issues. These events attract wide attention from both the public and the press.

More than 800 publishers from 31 countries were represented at the fair in 2010. Russia was invited as an honorary guest. In honor of this event, the Cairo publishing house Al-Shuruk published an 18-volume collection of works by Fyodor Dostoevsky in Arabic. They sold it out like hot cakes. An Egyptian journalist told me that by one o'clock in the afternoon, when she tried to purchase the collected works, the copies she had brought that day were already sold out. She was advised to come to the

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the next day is straight to the opening. The success was definitely promoted by the symbolic price of the kit: 100 eg. pounds (less than $20). And the local "Literaturka" - the weekly Akhbar al-Adab-published translations of short stories by Fazil Iskander, Edvard Radzinsky and Mikhail Weller on the eve of the fair.

Preparations for Russia's participation as an honorary guest in the Cairo International Book Fair began immediately after last year's summer holidays. An organizing committee was formed under the auspices of the Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications, which included me as a consultant. In discussions, sometimes very heated, members of the organizing committee decided what kind of books should be shown to Egyptians in the first place, what thematic stands should be prepared, and what should be included in the cultural program. As a result, the Russian exposition turned out to be diverse, and the program of events was rich.

Several hundred books from 50 publishers were presented at the stands of our pavilion. The attention of visitors to the fair was attracted by the book about Egypt itself - "Egypt and the Egyptians" by A.M. Vasiliev. This is the third (expanded) edition published in 2008 by Nauka publishing house. A separate section was prepared by the Republic of Tatarstan.

Unfortunately for the Egyptians, everything is in Russian. In the Soviet years, our books, translated into Arabic and published in Moscow, were in great demand in Egypt. There was a Russian book store in the center of Cairo, and the Al-Sharq company that owned it always participated in the Cairo Book Fair. Now we have no one translating and publishing books in Arabic is not engaged. It is true that some of these books are translated and published by the Egyptians themselves as part of the extensive state program for translating and publishing foreign literature, but the number of such books can be counted on the fingers in the truest sense of the word. By the way, at the evening at the Cairo Opera House on January 31, dedicated to Russia's participation in the book fair, the best Egyptian translators of recent years - Abu Bakr Youssef, Anwar Ibrahim and Ahmed al-Khamisi-were awarded commemorative medals. Awards were also given to the Department of Slavic Languages at Ain Shams University in Cairo, where Russian students have been trained for more than half a century, and the Association of University Graduates of Russia and the CIS countries.

The problem of translating and publishing books in Arabic in Russia has always come up in the course of discussions, and the Egyptians expressed the wish that the Russian state would take part in solving this problem. Russian culture is in high demand in Egypt, it has had a significant impact on modern Egyptian culture, and the lack of Russian culture in Egypt is very important.-

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The Egyptians are genuinely upset by the publication of many books in Arabic.

Along with books, the Russian exposition included several photo exhibitions with commentaries in Arabic. They were dedicated to the 150th anniversary of Anton Chekhov's birth, the 225th anniversary of the establishment of the first Russian consulate in Egypt, the 50th anniversary of the construction of the high-rise Aswan dam, and the 90th anniversary of the legendary gunsmith Mikhail Kalashnikov.

When Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak visited the Russian pavilion on the opening day of the fair, he was presented with an autographed Kalashnikov book. The president was surprised. "I thought Kalashnikov was a brand, not a real person," he said. President Mubarak also received other gifts. Among them are a page of the unique eighth-century Qur'an of Osman, made of the highest quality gold, stored at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, and the two-volume work of Tawfiq Ibrahim and Natalia Efremova "The Life of the Prophet Muhammad".

A separate exhibition was dedicated to the works of I. Y. Bilibin, who lived and worked in Egypt in 1920-1925. In preparation for the fair in Moscow, a gift collection of Russian folk tales in Arabic with illustrations by I. Ya. Bilibin was published. The exhibition dedicated to the outstanding Russian artist attracted many visitors to the pavilion, including the Vice-President of Sudan Ali Osman Tahi, who was in Cairo on an official visit at that time and chose the time to visit the fair. The presentation of the collection "I. Y. Bilibin in Egypt. 1920 - 1925. Letters, documents and materials" (Moscow, Russian Way, 2009).

The Russian delegation included quite a large group of writers, including such well-known writers as Edward Radzinsky, Zakhar Prilepin, and Sergey Lukyanenko. An anthology of contemporary Russian short stories was published in Arabic in Moscow especially for the fair, which included works by 16 authors. Meetings with our writers invariably aroused the interest of visitors to the pavilion. But the unscheduled meeting at the Cairo Atelier in the city center, an informal club of Egyptian intellectuals, was especially warm. The possibility of publishing books by Russian writers in Cairo was also discussed. Which of them will actually be published is up to the expert council of the Egyptian National Translation Center to decide. But in the opposite direction, the publication of works by Arab writers in Russian seems to have made a breakthrough. The Russian publishing house Byblos Consulting, which is headed by Syrian Salim Asad Ali, has signed an agreement with the Union of Arab Writers to publish one hundred modern Arabic novels in Russian for seven years.

The organizing committee paid special attention to the promotion of the Russian language. Textbooks and dictionaries were presented at the stands of the Russian pavilion, and open Russian language lessons were held almost daily for both adults and children. In total, about 40 events were held in our pavilion during the fair: meetings with Russian writers, round tables with the participation of Egyptians on culture and Russian-Egyptian relations, children's matinees, documentaries, and so on.

The Russian exposition enjoyed the attention of visitors to the fair. However, there could have been more of them, if not for an accidental technical problem. Our pavilion was located next to the main entrance to the fair, but the construction of a metro station was started near it, and the public used the opposite entrance, located quite far away. But journalists simply besieged the Russian delegation. The author of these lines, who by coincidence turned out to be the only orientalist in the delegation, gave 19 (!) interviews during the fair, including the largest Egyptian newspapers "Al-Ahram", "Akhbar al-Yaum" and "Al-Masri al-Yaum", participated three times in TV programs of various channels in the United Arab Emirates. live broadcast. Other members of the delegation also gave dozens of interviews with the help of interpreters.

In short, Russia's participation in the Cairo International Book Fair as an honorary guest has become a major event in the cultural life of Egypt and for Russian-Egyptian relations. This is not surprising, since relations between the two countries are developing rapidly in the twenty-first century. This is evidenced, in particular, by the agreement on strategic partnership between Russia and Egypt signed in June 2009 in Cairo by Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Hosni Mubarak.

I would like to make a suggestion in this regard. The level of development of political and cultural relations between the two countries is such that, in my opinion, it is time to discuss the issue of holding the Year of Russia in Egypt and the Year of Egypt in Russia, as is done with other friendly states. I am confident that the Egyptian side will welcome such an idea. A comprehensive program of cultural events under the auspices of the state will significantly expand the knowledge of Russians and Egyptians about each other, deepen mutual understanding, and establish new contacts between cultural figures of the two countries for the benefit of the Russian and Egyptian peoples.


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V. V. BELYAKOV, CAIRO BOOK FAIR: RUSSIA - GUEST OF HONOR // Stockholm: Swedish Digital Library (LIBRARY.SE). Updated: 13.08.2023. URL: https://library.se/m/articles/view/CAIRO-BOOK-FAIR-RUSSIA-GUEST-OF-HONOR (date of access: 25.04.2024).

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