Posted on September 03, 2016

Hamad Bin Khalifa University Press (HBKU Press) is pleased to announce that the latest novel of one of its best-selling Qatari authors, Abdulaziz Al-Mahmoud, has been made available to read in Portuguese, the world’s sixth most widely spoken language.

By presenting the outside world with exceptional writing and stories from the region and Qatar more specifically, HBKU Press is furthering its mission of spreading awareness about the richness of Gulf, and in particular, Qatar history and literature. Translation is often at the core of that mission as it provides access to new and growing markets. “HBKU Press strives to offer readers in the Arabic-speaking world the best books and stories,” said Fakhri Saleh, Head of Arabic Publishing at HBKU Press. “Translation opens up the wealth of Arabic literature and history to the rest of the world.”

This applies perfectly to Al-Mahmoud’s latest historical novel. Originally written and published in Arabic, The Holy Sail caught the eye of a Portuguese publishing house, Casa Das Letras, after it was published in English last year.  Now available in three widely spoken languages – Arabic, English and Portuguese, The Holy Sail is accessible to over 750 million people worldwide in their own native languages. “The translation of my book into Portuguese makes me very proud as it allows us to show others our perspective, our history and our past way of living,” said Al-Mahmoud. “I hope it will create dialogue amongst Portuguese-speaking circles of historians, writers, academics and literature enthusiasts.”

A gripping adventure set on the high seas, The Holy Sail transports readers to the 15th century, when Portuguese fleets were encroaching upon the Arabian Gulf seeking to secure the lucrative spice trade. As with his previous novel, The Corsair, Al-Mahmoud weaves a story together from historical texts and thorough research, bringing to light an era and a region that had previously been neglected. Yet, Mahmoud states, The Holy Sail is not a history book, but a story in which reality and fiction blend shedding light on a period long forgotten.

“When I started working on the story for The Holy Sail, references related to the Gulf region at the end of the 14th century and early 15th century were not widely available,” commented Al-Mahmoud. “I was grateful for the support of some friends who opened up their libraries and others who shared historical anecdotes, one of which gave me my first lead.” According to Al-Mahmoud, the Portuguese invasion of the region caused the destruction of many cities, impoverished a region that was once peaceful and stable, and immensely affected documentation activities. “Most of the characters in my story are real and were kept historically intact. I was excited to bring to life historical figures, such as Hussein Al Kurdi, Sultan Muqrin bin Zamel, Khawaja Attar, and others, who had been forgotten by many of our history books,” he continued.

Casa Das Letras purchased the Portuguese language rights from HBKU Press. As is customary for publishing companies worldwide, HBKU Press often sells language and territory rights to both its fiction and non-fiction trade titles. By doing so, HBKU Press ensures that authors from Qatar and the region are exposed to a diversity of markets and an ever-growing audience of readers. Indeed, with this translation alone, The Holy Sail will be accessible to a further 200 million native speakers in nine different countries. 

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