Indie publishing houses of SWANA literature

I’ve been finding independent publishing houses that represent Arab literature and creators. They seek to value and showcase Arab-x creators, as well as promote cultural diversity in literature throughout the Western and Eastern worlds.

All of these sell beautiful and wonderful SWANA/MENA books and graphic novels, and I support buying from each of them.

Darf Publishing

According to their website:

Darf Publishers is a London-based independent publisher with diversity and inclusion at the heart of its work.

Darf was established in 1981 as an English imprint for the long-standing Arab publisher Dar Fergiani which was established by the late Mohamed Bashir Fergiani in 1952 in Libya.

For three decades Darf focused on publishing and reprinting classical history and travel books about the Middle East, Africa and Asia in English. Much of the back catalogue is facsimile editions of rare 18th and 19th-century books, mostly in the fields of history, travel, literature, languages, poetry, culture, theology and sport.

After a major restructuring, Darf embarked since 2014 on establishing itself as a leading publisher in translating new emerging writers from around the world into English. Recent publications included works of fiction, non-fiction and children’s books from Libya, Sudan, Eritrea, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, the Faroe Islands, Indonesia and Japan.

What I love about their works is the diversity, including a number of authors from different countries, and they publish a variety of works that cover so many topics, fiction and nonfiction.

Here a few works I’ve bought from Darf:

1. African Titanics by Abu Bakr Khaal 

African Titanics is the untold tale of the African boat people and their desperate exodus to the merciless shores of the Mediterranean. The novel is one of fleeting yet profound friendships, perseverance born of despair and the power of stories to overcome the difficulties of the present. Alternating between fast-paced action and meditative reflection, the novel follows the adventures of Eritrean migrant Abdar. As he journeys north, the narrative mirrors the rhythm of his travels, at one moment speeding away from bandits in the Sahara and at the next patiently awaiting news of a calm sea, maintaining a constant tension between life and death, hope and despair.

Connecting today’s migrants with legendary adventurers of the past, Eritrean author Abu Bakar Khaal places the phenomenon of migration in a broad perspective. The “bug” which grips the hearts and minds of young Africans is just one of many phases which Africa has traversed in its long history from man’s first cradle. With moments of comedy interspersing the harsh reality of migration, African Titanics provides an intimate take on a phenomenon so often in the news. African Titanics is a fascinating new contribution to Arabic literature and one of only a few fictional works by an Eritrean author to be translated into English.

2. Chewing Gum by Mansour Bushnaf

“Students! Write this down in your notebooks! Chewing is infinite!”

Young Mukhtar is frozen in time, gazing at his beloved Fatma as she disappears into the streets of Tripoli, Libya, destined to a life of prostitution. Around these young lovers, Bushnaf weaves a compelling network of images: a litter-strewn park, a bewitching Italian statue and a fluttering red scarf. Through these images, imbued with social, historical and existential import, Bushnaf paints a dark portrait of a country in crisis and an individual, alone at the centre of conflicting ideologies, all attempting to explain his existence away.

With its satirical and semi-journalistic style, Chewing Gum is an existential quest to understand how a society exists beneath a repressive dictatorship. The rhythmic act of chewing relentlessly continues as individuals, time and land turn to waste. In this debut novel, no one escapes the critical gaze of a writer who witnessed first-hand the brutality of Gaddafi’s regime. At times downright funny and at times poignantly sad, Chewing Gum depicts the academics, politicians and businessmen of Libya who all claim a monopoly on the truth of the country but who all, inevitably, fail the individual.

Hoopoe Fiction

According to their website:

We’re seeking fresh writing from Marrakesh to Baghdad and Khartoum to Aleppo for adventurous readers everywhere. From historical epics, social satire, police procedurals and stories of the future Middle East: we will publish the exciting and the unexpected.

Through elegant paperback and digital editions, we’re championing bold, contemporary writing and the finest, groundbreaking authors of today. is a place of discovery for our growing community around the world, where we’ll share inspiring writing from the Middle East and where readers can explore interviews with our authors and commentaries from our translators and editors.

What I love about their works is they represent so many authors, and promote such interesting and validating stories, AND, they publish more than Arab or Arab-X authors.

Here a few works I’ve bought from Hoopoe:

1. The Unexpected Love Objects of Dunya Noor by Rana Haddad

Aspiring photographer Dunya Noor discovers early on that her curious spirit, rebellious nature, and very curly hair are a recipe for disaster in 1980s Syria. And at the tender age of thirteen, she is exiled to live with her grandparents in England.

Many years later in London, she meets Hilal, the son of a humble tailor from Aleppo and no match for Dunya, daughter of a famous heart surgeon.

But, dreamy, restless Dunya falls in love with Hilal and they decide to return to Syria together, embarking on a journey that will change them both forever.

Rana Haddad’s vivid and satirical debut novel captures the essence of life under the Assad dictatorship, in all its rigid absurdity, with humor and an unexpected playfulness.

2. A Recipe for Daphne by Nektaria Anastasiadou

An American-born traveler to one of Istanbul’s oldest communities receives an unexpected welcome in this heart-warming and romantic debut.

Fanis is at the center of a dwindling yet stubbornly proud community of Rum, Greek Orthodox Christians, who have lived in Istanbul for centuries.

When Daphne, the American-born niece of an old friend, arrives in the city in search of her roots, she is met with a hearty welcome. Fanis is smitten by the beautiful and aloof outsider, who, despite the age difference, reminds him of the fiancée he lost in the 1955 pogrom.

Kosmas, a master pastry chef on the lookout for a good Rum wife, also falls instantly for Daphne. She is intrigued by him, but can she love him in return? Or will a family secret, deeply rooted in the painful history of the city itself, threaten their chances?

This story of love, hopeful beginnings, and ancient traditions introduces a sparkling new literary voice sure to transport and entertain.

Saqi Books

According to their website:

For over three decades, we have offered an independent platform for writers and artists from around the world, releasing cutting-edge, ground-breaking works including The Crusades through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf, Beyond the Veil by Fatema Mernissi, Black Britain: A Photographic History by Paul Gilroy and The White Family by Maggie Gee.

We are also proud to bring out in English translation the best in new and classic Arabic literature, including works by Naguib Mahfouz, Mahmoud Darwish, Adonis and Nawal El Saadawi.

Saqi Books has two imprints. The Westbourne Press is committed to releasing engaging works that offer an alternative, progressive perspective on the leading issues of our time, and Telegram publishes new and classic international writing.

Saqi was awarded the IPG Diversity Award in 2013, the Arab British Culture and Society award in 2008 and the British Book Industry Award for Diversity in Literature in 2009.

I love their nonfiction works that seeks to bring out the humanity and deep culture of the Arab world.

Here a few works I’ve bought from Saqi:

1. The Quarter Naguib Mahfouz

Meet the people of Cairo’s Gamaliya quarter. There is Nabqa, son of Adam the waterseller who can only speak truths; the beautiful and talented Tawhida who does not age with time; Ali Zaidan, the gambler, late to love; and Boss Saqr who stashes his money above the bath. A neighbourhood of demons, dancing and sweet halva, the quarter keeps quiet vigil over the secrets of all who live there.

This collection by pre-eminent Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz was recently discovered among his old papers.

Found with a slip of paper titled ‘for publishing 1994’, they are published here for the first time.

Resplendent with Mahfouz’s delicate and poignant observations of everyday happe

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