LEILA – Arabic Literature in European Languages (2021-2023) (english version)

LEILA is the reverse acronym for “Arabic Literature in European Languages”. “Layla” (“night”) is a word charged in Arabic with a very positive connotation: a feminine first name of pre-Islamic origin, “Leïla” means “the beginning of vertigo and the intoxication of love”. This name also refers to the Thousand and One Nights (in Arabic, “Alf layla wa-layla”), one of the first literary corpus translated from Arabic, which circulated in Europe as early as the 12th century. Finally, LEILA convokes in the imaginary “Majnûn Layla”, a popular love story of pre-Islamic origin, a work of the universal that dialogues through its poems with all the cultures of the Middle East and Central Asia.

LEILA is founded on a common desire to promote the translation and circulation of the new Arabic-speaking literary scene in Europe. The “Arab Spring” of 2011 gave rise to an incredible artistic effervescence, driven by the liberation of speech and the fall or questioning of oppressive regimes: this suddenly led us, in Europe, to “re-see the other” and “listen to the Arab world”, to finally leave the post-colonial paradigm of “the cognitive invisibility of Arab spaces” (Yassin Al Haj Saleh). While the performing and visual arts have gradually found their place on the European art scene, the new voices of Arab literature remain little heard. As the first language spoken by the most recent arrivals in Europe, and by more than 500 million speakers worldwide, Arabic remains a “rare language” in the field of translation exchanges. At a time when Arab artistic creativity is booming in Europe, the new, effervescent, diverse and avant-garde Arabic-speaking literary scene is still only (too) weakly echoed there.

The LEILA project will take place over three years, with three key-actions: to structure a network of actors and organizations in the field of Euro-Arab literature and publishing; to promote the “discoverability” of the new Arabic-speaking literary scene in Europe; and to strengthen the capacities and visibility of the new European generation of Arabic translators.

Network meetings

The first network meeting was held on 8 and 9 July 2021 in Paris just before the literary festival « Maghreb-Orient des Livres » (10 and 11 July, Hôtel de ville de Paris). It was initially planned to bring together Arab and European interlocutors and experts associated with the collective reflection initiated by LEILA. However, the context of the health crisis did not allow inviting experts based in the Arab-speaking region, so the programme of this first meeting was reoriented. The meeting brought together European experts on « translated Arabic books » and actors involved in the promotion of contemporary literary creation in Arabic in Europe, with the main objective of collectively prefiguring the LEILA website, a tool for the « discoverability » of contemporary Arabic literature, intended for European book professionals.

Translation residencies (2021 and 2023)

As a project partner, ATLAS is hosting two highlights of the project. In June 2021 was held in Arles a forum about translation from Arabic in European languages. Ten translators joined forces during a one week residency at the International College of Literary Translators (CITL) at the Espace Van Gogh, to map the existing editorial landscapes for texts translated from Arabic to European langages, and to share best practices about the « discoverability » of new texts, their promotion and translation. A second residency will happen in 2023, allowing to share the work accomplished since 2021, the new authors who have been discovered, and the tools put in place to facilitate the rise of new voices from the Arab world to be translated.

First translation residency in Arles (June 2021)
In June 2021 in Arles, Atlas hosted the “Estates General” of translation from Arabic into various European languages. Ten translators were brought together for a one-week residency at the International College of Literary Translators (ICLT) at the Espace Van Gogh in order to discuss the publishing landscape of translations from Arabic into European languages, and to share the best « tracking » techniques of untranslated texts and promotion strategies. A new work residency will be held in 2023. Its aim is to present the work accomplished since 2021, the discovered authors, and the tools to make the emergence of new voices from the untranslated Arab world easier.
Click here for more information about the June 2021 translation residency in Arles or to see translators’ biographies.

LEILA is a Euro-Mediterranean project designed and implemented by iReMMO, in partnership with Al Jumhuriya (Germany), ATLAS-CITL (France), BOZAR / Chaire Mahmoud Darwich (Belgium), and Elyzad (Tunisia)

Provisional timescale:


14-18 June > Working residency #1 at CITL in Arles

8-9 July > LEILA meetings #1 in Paris: which contents and resources for LEILA platform?

13 November > Beirut Echoes literary event at BOZAR – Mahmoud Darwich Chair in Brussels


Spring and autumn > Literary events at Bozar
September > LEILA professional meeting #2 in Berlin
December > Publication of New Books in Arabic– catalogue of new Arabic voices to be translated


Winter >Working residency #2 at CITL in Arles
Spring > Public reading around the ATLAS residency #2 at BOZAR – Mahmoud Darwich Chair in Brussels
Automn > Launch of the online platform New Books in Arabic



Anne Millet
+33 (0)1 42 01 31 43

LEILA is co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union, Fondation de France, Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation and Région Sud Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur.