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Major Breakthrough For Malaysian Literary At Frankfurt Book Fair

Last update: 16/10/2011
By Manik Mehta

FRANKFURT, Oct 16 (Bernama) -- A Kuala Lumpur-based literary agent, who has been scouting at the Frankfurt International Book Fair for potential buyers of Malaysian titles, was able to sell a few titles here.

Describing the sale as a "major breakthrough", Linda Tan Lingard, the director of the Yusof Gajah Lingard Literary Agency Sdn Bhd of Kuala Lumpur, told Bernama at the Malaysian pavilion set up at the fair that the international response to Malaysian literary works was "very good".

"We managed to sell the rights of Malaysian titles to foreign buyers...and I am confident there are more that promise good business.

"I sense at the fair a greater openness on the part of buyers to look at books coming from a different cultural setting and from the non-English speaking world," she explained in an interview.

The Yusof Gajah Lingard Literary Agency specialises in fiction and children's works. The agency, according to Lingard, was established in 2009 to promote Malaysian illustrators.

"I came here, basically, to sell the rights of Malaysian authors to foreign buyers but I am also keeping an eye on books suitable for Malaysian publishers. I am, particularly, looking for good fiction and children's stories.

"I negotiated, for example, with an Indian publisher called Preeti Gill of New Delhi, the publishing rights of a collection of short stories that would be of interest to Malaysian readers. "Another book that I thought would be interesting from India narrates the story of a female Indian household servant who is badly treated by her employers and she decides to educate herself and stand up for her rights," said Lingard.

She said, while authors and works from a different cultural environment were "always interesting", Malaysian readers tend to relate easily to other Asian countries, particularly India. "There are many social and cultural traits that are common to both countries," she noted.

Lingard also observed at the fair, which is a unique event and the best and biggest of its kind worldwide, that there are few countries such as Finland, Belgium and Brazil that are aggressively funding books and translation.

The five-day book fair, which ended Sunday evening, "more than met" the expectations of the Malaysian exhibitors at the Malaysian pavilion, according to Azmi Shahri, the director of the National Book Council of Malaysia. Commenting on the outcome of a so-called "bridge-building event" with Arab publishers held two days ago, under the auspices of the Malaysian pavillion -- various Arab publishers came over to meet their Malaysian counterparts in a business match-making exercise -- he said the encounter with Arab publishers had been good and "opened new opportunities for business for both sides".

He said, while other book fairs in different parts of the country had a narrow focus and were niche in character, the Frankfurt book fair had a strong international flavour and suitable for all genres of literature.

Malaysia's Education Ministry deputy director-general of education Zahri Aziz told Bernama that he would review Malaysia's performance at the fair when he returned home.

"I plan to organise a meeting with all concerned to identify ways and means to increase our exports and also try to segmentise our products for different regions, besides the Arab countries which we specifically had in mind for this show.

"Malaysia produces some 16,000 titles each year and our target is to increase this figure to 26,000 from next year. I realise this is not an easy task for those involved but it is not unrealistic," he said.