Xavier Luffin teaches Arabic at the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium. His research focuses on Sudanese Literature, and more widely on Arabic Literature in Africa. He is also a literary translator from Arabic into French. Some of the authors he has translated include Abdelaziz Baraka Sakin, Ahmad al-Malik, Amir Tagelsir, Samir Naqqash, Rashid Daif, and Nawal al-Saadawi.
Although Belgian academic and literary translator Xavier Luffin works on all literature coming from the Arab world, he has a particular interest in Sudanese literature and contemporary writing from countries south of North Africa. Sudan’s literary scene is effervescent, despite a particularly difficult social context, says Luffin.
“There is a tradition of writing poetry in Arabic in these countries, but there’s also an emerging literary fiction developing in Senegal, Eritrea, Somalia, Mali, or Chad which is little-known in the Arab world and even less so in the west.”
In countries such as Senegal or Chad there is an ancient culture linked to Arabic, but it has always been tied to religion, says Luffin, while publishing was mostly in French. Now people are writing fiction in Arabic, and even in countries such as Nigeria.
For his LEILA choices Luffin draws on many sources for ideas and often looks to the English-language literary magazine Banipal. He also reads the literary pages of Arabic-language newspapers as well as online sites and chats with authors for suggestions. He says he’s less on social media than some, but that it’s undeniably a good source, and he does find out about new books published by author friends on Facebook and their literary suggestions.
Luffin finds that publishers in Europe are curious about Arabic literature and would like to publish works coming from Arabic, but the region is so opaque, and production often appears to be limited to just a few countries.”
What he finds interesting and exciting about the jury selections for LEILA is looking for a balance in terms of literary genre and geographical areas, and in his case, he looks for authors who are less well-known. “I’ve made very selective choices and am trying to promote a number of authors in a global context.”