Karam Youssef and Sherif Bakr are among the most committed publishers in the Arab World. During a workshop at Translation House Looren they taught future translators from the Arab World what it takes, beyond work on language, to bring a book from a German speaking world closer to an Arab audience. Susanne Schanda met with them there.
Susanne Schanda: How do you proceed when you look for German literature, which you cannot read yourself, for your publishing house?
Sherif Bakr: I use different sources of information. One is the “Kutubna” programme, which the Goethe Institute uses to recommend German books, as well as good relationships I have made with various German publishers, whom I meet every year at the Frankfurt book fair. Also through my travels, like attending this workshop at Translation House Looren , I always have opportunities to get in direct contact with new publishers. I rely on recommendations made by my international friends as well and I always follow the Spiegel bestseller list.
Translators are important mediators of literature. What do you expect from translators who present you with a manuscript?
Karam Youssef: They have to offer a translation sample of course. I also want to know why they want to translate this particular book.
Sherif Bakr: For me, a translator has to first convince me why he wants to translate this particular book. They need to tell me what the book is about, how the story is told, what the language is like, if it is easy to translate and what makes it so extraordinary that it needs to be translated. A translation sample isn’t a priority. To me, it rather serves to establish the quality of a translation but the decision for a book doesn’t depend on it.