Journalist and Editor Olivia Snaije Discusses the Arab-Speaking Publishing World

Arabic publishing

Journalist and Editor Olivia Snaije Discusses the Arab-Speaking Publishing World

S2 E4: Olivia Snaije Discusses the Current State of the Arab-Speaking Publishing World

By Marleen Seegers, Co-Founder of 2 Seas Agency and Host of The Make Books Travel Podcast
December 5, 2020

Olivia Snaije © Nadia Benchallal

Today’s guest is Paris-based journalist, author, translator and editor Olivia Snaije. For those of you who read the international publishing industry news, Olivia’s name probably sounds familiar as she is a contributing editor to Publishing Perspectives.

Besides Publishing Perspectives, she has written for a variety of magazines and newspapers including The Guardian and the New York Times. One of the subjects she has written a lot about is the publishing and book industry of the Middle East and the Arabic-speaking world in general, which is also the central topic of our interview.

Here are some of the questions that I asked Olivia:

  • How did your interest develop in the Middle East, and the Arab speaking world in general, and its book and publishing industry?
  • How are Lebanese publishing houses doing in the midst of the extreme challenges they are facing, i.e. the economic crisis, the pandemic, and the aftermath of the disastrous explosion in Beirut in August?
  • The distribution of books between Arabic-speaking countries leaves a lot to be desired. In fact many Arabic publishers personally travel to public book fairs across the Arabic-speaking countries with copies of their books to sell them at these fairs. How do they cope with the Covid-19 era and its travel restrictions, and the cancellation of many such in-person events?
  • The Sharjah Book Fair did happen at the beginning of November. If you didn’t attend personally, have you heard from people who did, and what was their experience like?
  • What can you tell us about the problem of piracy of books in the Arab-speaking world?
  • Is the audiobook format on the rise in Arab-speaking countries?
  • What would you recommend to international editors and rights sellers who are interested in learning more about the Arab-speaking publishing world?
Show Notes
  • Getting to know Arabic literature and its publishing industry:

Sources in English:


Banipal magazine

Words without Borders

RAYA literary agency

International Prize for Arabic Fiction

Literature Across Frontiers

Arab Voices catalogue 2020

International Alliance for Independent Publishers

French sources:

Make Books Travel PodcastActes Sud/Sindbad

Maghreb Orient des Livres book festival

Editions Barzakh (Algeria)

En Toutes Lettres (Morocco)

Editions Elyzad (site under construction)

Takam Tikou (children’s books)

Italian source:


  • Some of Olivia’s favorite books this year:

The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld translated by Michele Hutchinson (Faber & Faber, 2020-UK edition; Graywolf, 2020-US edition).

The Eighth Life, by Nino Haratischwili translated by Charlotte Collins and Ruth Martin (Scribe US&UK, 2020)

Minor Detail by Adania Shibli translated by Elisabeth Jacquette (New Directions, 2020-US edition; Fitzcarraldo, 2020-UK edition)

  • About Olivia:

Olivia Snaije is a journalist and editor based in Paris. She is a contributing editor to Publishing Perspectives, and has written for a variety of magazines and newspapers including The Guardian, The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar Art, and CNN, and was a staff member at both Vanity Fair and CBC/Radio Canada in New York. She is a former commissioning editor at Saqi Books as well as a former executive editor of Alef, a London-based cultural magazine about the Middle East. She translated Lamia Ziadé’s Bye Bye Babylon (Random House) in 2011, she has written several books on Paris published by Dorling Kindersley and Flammarion. Editions Textuel (France) and Saqi Books (London) published Keep Your Eye on the Wall: Palestinian Landscapes, which she co-edited, in 2013.


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