Tunisia: keeping a publisher alive in an angry country

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While the General States of French-language books will be held in Tunis from September 23 to 24, and while they will be followed by the World Congress of French-language Writers on September 25 and 26, we went to meet Élisabeth Daldoul, the founder of Editions Elyzad. She told about her daily life as a publisher in a country that reads very little and what she expects from these major literary events that are held at home.

From our correspondent in Tunis,

Tunisians are angry at the books. Élisabeth Daldoul, she’s damn upset about those who abuse her. It is necessary to see her pass the step in the bookstore Clairefontaine, owned by her husband’s family for almost half a century, and multiply the reproaches. “Dust off those novels.” So remove them from the infamous plastic that suffocates them. And therefore better to showcase these works, let’s see! ”

Orders click and seem to wake up the young employees who were shaken by a summer playing overtime in Tunisia. If Élisabeth Daldoul demands that special care be wasted with books, it is because she knows better than anyone the work that everyone has required, she who has carried some of them for months.

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A publisher “from the south” At the forefront of Elyzad’s editions, his newborn occupies the best-placed table in the bookstore. In total, there are about thirty works by Tunisian, but also Palestinian and French authors, available for the reader’s appetite. Elyzad is based in Tunis, but claims a Mediterranean identity. “From the south,” as Élisabeth Daldoul puts it. It is this identity that she wants to defend during the two major literary events that are coming.

Winner of the Goncourt Prize for Premiere Novel – awarded to Émilienne Malfatto for Que sur toi lamentation le Tigre – the publisher has the impression that the world of French books is gradually changing the view of the work of colleagues on the southern shores of the Mediterranean: “I thought the jury was extremely brave assign us Goncourt. I said to myself “they dared!” I have a feeling that the middle has changed. And that we who were peripheral publishers, published in French, but not in Paris, are now perceived differently. ”

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Rub shoulders with author, “the highlight of the feeling”She, who has been publishing books for sixteen years now, talks about her profession with amazement for beginners. More than the publication of a book, what excites Élisabeth Daldoul is the discovery of a new author.

Each book is a new adventure for her. The promise to dive into an author’s inner and unique world. “The height of emotion,” she understands. Under the neon lights of Tunisian literary salons, she may have a new sun meeting.

Circulate the bookIn anticipation of a hypothetical and new literary love at first sight, Élisabeth Daldoul wants to take advantage of the fact that these two major events are being held to give an appeal for a better “edition” of the book.

I created the publisher by telling myself that I wanted the books to travel. But it is clear that the books do not circulate at all between the three Maghreb countries, which are nevertheless very close from a cultural point of view. All this is due to very complicated banking and customs reasons. Forgive me the expression, but it’s stupid! There are goods in circulation – car tires for example – but books are not! Who has the political courage to address this issue?To be an editor in a country that reads a littleThis French-Palestinian woman from Dakar has already lived in Tunis for thirty-four years. She who fell in love with a Tunisian married his country with him. A one-sided love that so many Tunisians avoid reading. Two out of three Tunisians thus admit that they do not have a book at home other than the Koran or the school books. A worrying figure which, however, must be qualified by an economic context that makes the book inaccessible to ordinary Tunisians.

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A source of hope, the proportion of Tunisians who say they do not read a book decreases from year to year. The salvation of reading probably comes from young people. Élisabeth Daldoul also admits – much more than the literary awards that really do “good for the ego” – derive her main pride from enrolling in school programs in some of her books in Tunisia than in France. Like Goncourt of the first novel, the absolute pride of the house.

As passionate as she is honest, Élisabeth Daldoul is convinced that the battle for books will be won more on school benches than in “herself” in the quiet alleys of colloquiums and publishing congresses.

Tunisians and books

69% of Tunisians have no books at home other than the Koran and school books. In comparison, the figure rose to 74% in 2018, a sign that things are changing anyway.

86% of Tunisians admit that they did not buy a book during the year, compared to 91% in 2018.

Source: Emrhod Consulting Tunis

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