Samah Edriss, who I prefer to think of as a pioneer of hilarious and eye-catching Arabic children’s books, was also the editor of Al-Adab magazine, est. Sohail Edriss in 1953, three years before his important publishing house, Dar al-Adab.
Samah Edriss took over the magazine in 1991, and penned the magazine’s last editorial late last year.
The Lebanese author and editor explained that the reason for shuttering al-Adaab was financial, especially as the magazine had refused any external funding. Edriss wrote (trans. Ahram Online):
There’s no meaning in producing a cultural, progressive magazine that opposes all Arab regimes and doubts all non-governmental organisations’ motives and agendas, to be funded by money from one or the other … No true culture can be produced from funding with the smell of oil, oppression or external agendas, for funding decides choices of writing and strategies of focus, exclusion and inclusion.
The sold funding organization for al-Adab, Edriss wrote, was Dar al-Adab publishing house. As one of the most key Arab publishing houses, he wrote, Dar al-Adab could continue to fund the magazine for another 60 years. Yet the number of readers has dwindled, pushing him to the question: What is the value of producing while readers aren’t reading? Is the insistence on publishing it an act of heroism or a waste of effort?
Is there a future for a paper-based cultural magazine? The editorial ends with the suggestion that it may return in an electronic form that thus “tricks censorship and spreads wider to reach the era where we can re-issue its paper version again.”
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