Thursday, March 1st, 2018

(Arabic with simultaneous English translation)

When the Library Was Stolen is a book that examines the private library of novelist Abd Al-Rahman Munif, one of the most well-known modern authors hailing from the Arab world. Munif spent most of his life in exile, constantly migrating between a number of Arab and European cities. As a passionate reader and writer, he collected books and publications incessantly during his travels and founded libraries in different cities, themselves fated to either disappear, shrink, or migrate. The library’s collection goes back to the 1940s and holds over 10,000 publications from diverse fields and publishers, many of which no longer exist. This research is based on an inventory that catalogues and documents the library's publications.

To immerse oneself in this library and to trace its transnational trajectories is to reveal the political and cultural movements of the East Mediterranean and North African region. The library thus provides insight into the long history of epistemological production by publishers in the Arab world, reflecting the practice of publishing and its development during crucial political and social change. A re-exploration of its content offers new observations, but also stimulates questions concerning the fate of Arab publishers. Munif’s library could thereby be considered a reference for the history of Arab intellectual migration and the movement of knowledge, while also being a space in which the disappearance and reappearance of publications takes place.

Fehras Publishing Practices (Kenan Darwich, Omar Nicolas, Sami Rustom) is an artist collective established in Berlin in 2015. It was founded as a response to mounting questions concerning the history and presence of art and publishing in the Eastern Mediterranean, North Africa, and the diaspora. Fehras researches issues of publishing through observing and experimenting with its forms, in an attempt to create a new, more extensive culture of critical engagement.

This talk and book launch is part of Fehras Publishing Practices’ residency at Ashkal Alwan.

Senate Department for Culture and Europe, Berlin, Germany

ifa (Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen), Germany

Mophradat aisbl, Brussels, Belgium

Villa Romana, Florence, Italy