A PRH-Kalimat Partnership: South and Southeast Asian, Arabic, English

In News by Porter Anderson

Leveraging a translation-exchange model, Kalimat Group and Penguin Random House India and Southeast Asia open a partnership.

In Singapore’s Kampong district, June 23. Image – Getty iStockphoto: Ian Waldraff

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Arabic to English; South and Southeast Asian to Arabic
As Publishing Perspectives readers will recall, one of the most interesting programs in translated literature—one that includes a sales component in its concept—appeared in 2016 in Arabic, English, and French translation-exchange programs.

Today (July 31), we have news from Penguin Random House divisions in India and Southeast Asia that a new edition of this concept is being mounted in a publishing partnership between Penguin Random House and Kalimat Group, the United Arab Emirates-based children’s publisher founded in 2007 by Bodour Al Qasimi.

Many trade visitors at Frankfurter Buchmesse (October 18 to 22 this year) joined us for a Publishing Perspectives Talks discussion with Nigel Newton of Bloomsbury Publishing in London; Hedwige Pasquet of Gallimard Jeunesse in Paris; Marcus Leaver of the Quarto Group; and Sharjah’s Al Qasimi about the translation exchanges they were engaged in. Normally Kalimat and each partner publisher were exchanging 10 titles each.

One of the cleverest elements of this type of rights exchange is that the publisher-partners not only see their work translated into new languages and markets, but they sell each other’s work into those territories–where they know how to market and sell the work. This leverages the “home team advantage” that any publisher has for distributing and selling work in her or his own market.

Al Qasimi: ‘Increasing Appetite for Arabic Works’

A display of Arabic comics titles at Kalimat Group

Here’s how today’s newly announced exchange works:

  • Under the agreement, Kalimat’s team in Sharjah will have translated into Arabic a selection of titles from South and Southeast Asia—and will make those Arabic translations available using its channels throughout the Arab world.
  • In exchange, Penguin Random House Southeast Asia, through the PRH India division, will translate into English a group of titles from Kalimat, and market them into international territories.

As Penguin Random House’s media messaging today says, this partnership actually, then, has a kind of third linguistic dimension by comparison to the earlier exchanges that answers one of the biggest needs of those in publishing who are working to bring more Arabic literature into international markets: Whereas the Gallimard partnership in 2017, for example, was taking French work into Arabic and Arabic into French, this program will take Indian and South Asian work into Arabic, and Arabic into English–so that more of the vast Arabic region’s literature can move into the English-language markets on the strength of Penguin Random House’s major distributional and marketing capabilities.

The presentation of this first partnership from Penguin Random House stresses “a commitment to strengthening the publishing ecosystem, promoting diversity and inclusivity, and providing readers with wider book choices.”

It’s also worth remembering that a partnership of this kind takes authors’ work into new languages and territories, and provides new opportunities for translators, too.

Shrinagesh: ‘Literature Cannot Survive in Solitude’

Speaking for Penguin Random House India and Southeast Asia, CEO Guarav Shrinagesh says, “Kalimat Group has achieved unprecedented success under the formidable vision, guidance, and leadership of Sheikha Bodour.

Guarav Shrinagesh

“We’re delighted to partner with them as we have long admired the publishing program they’ve created, one we will continue to build on together.

“With this collaboration, we’re excited to bring new experiences to our readers and widen the scope of translated literature. Literature cannot survive in solitude, and its growth depends on transcending borders set by geography and languages.”

Bodour Al Qasimi

And for Kalimat, Al Qasimi says, “‘We’re thrilled to enter a partnership with one of the biggest names in the world of publishing at a time of increasing appetite for Arabic works and translations.

“Working together, we can find new audiences, increase the reach of our authors, and enrich the international publishing landscape, which is to the benefit of readers in many markets.”

Kalimat, as our readership knows, was the first publishing house created in the United Arab Emirates exclusively producing children’s content. Horouf, which was established in 2013, is dedicated to publishing printed books and smart applications that offer a modern integrated education system in the Arabic language. Rewayat is a division of Kalimat that produces books targeting adults and young adults.

Penguin Random House’s India and Southeast Asia installations—the latter is seated in Singapore—have more than 3,400 titles in their catalogues and are producers both of children’s and adult content, the latter including business, politics, history, religion and philosophy, literary fiction, autobiography, biography, lifestyle, health and fitness, sports and leisure, and self-help.

Bloomsbury’s Nigel Newton and Gallimard Jeunesse’s Hedwige Pasquet speak in a 2017 Publishing Perspectives Talk at Frankfurt Book Fair’s Business Club on the Kalimat Group’s translation partnerships. Image: Frankfurter Buchmesse, Bernd Hartung


More from Publishing Perspectives on Penguin Random House and its international divisions is here, more on the Kalimat Group is here, more on translation and translators is here, more on Arabic work is here, more on international translation and publishing rights is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.