Classical Arab writers and poets like Al-Mutanabbi could not have imagined that centuries later, writers would discuss their masterpieces live with an international audience. Thanks to technology, a global audience was recently able to access a recent Arab Literature Festival called “Bila Hudood: Arab Literature Everywhere”.
Bila Hudood – the name means “Without Borders” – has brought together authors, translators, editors and readers in an ambitious project that has provided much-needed respite in today’s world of pandemic and restrictions.
Organized from July 9 to 11, the festival was organized by Sawad Hussain, winner of the 2019 ArabLit Short Story award and two English PEN Translates awards, and Marcia Lynx Qualey, a Rabat-based freelance journalist who frequently contributes to Al-Fanar Media. . He invited people to join discussions on contemporary Arabic literature in genres such as food writing, memoirs, poetry, science fiction, fantasy, and drama.
The panels were composed of authors from the Middle East and Africa. Since the festival was online only, due to the pandemic, the challenges of hosting it weren’t as difficult as they would have been if it had been face-to-face.
“I don’t think we could have hosted this festival at any other time,” said Lynx Qualey. “Pioneering events like Palestine Writes, African Writers Festival, Mother Tongue Twisters and World Kid Lit events have shown us just how dynamic and engaging online literary events can be.
For Lynx Qualey, the inspiration for Bila Hudood was a World Kid Lit panel on Arabic literature for young readers. “The huge response to this panel surprised me, especially how it forged new connections between readers, writers, editors, agents and publishers,” she said. “We hope Bila Hudood will do the same.”