Palestinian publisher Samir Mansour was left devastated after his library, the largest in Gaza, was reduced to a rubble in an airstrike.
The Samir Mansour Library was 21 years in the making, slowly rising as a much-loved spot for the people of Gaza who found their voice and refuge between its shelves.
Watching over 100,000 books worth $700,000 (Dh2.5 million) burn to ashes, however, only made Mansour more determined to carry on his mission of empowering Palestinians through knowledge.
The 58-year-old, who was a first-time participant at the recent Sharjah International Book Fair, is now gearing up for the opening of his renovated library at double the size of the previous one, thanks to a major contribution from Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, President of the International Publishers Association (IPA) and Founder and CEO of the UAE-based Kalimat Group, who dedicated the sales proceeds of her latest book ‘World Book Capital’ to rebuilding the Samir Mansour Library.
He is extremely thankful for the gesture. “We are extremely grateful for Sheikha Bodour’s constant support and encouragement to publishers and authors from all over the world. Her efforts reflect genuine concern about the future of the publishing industry,” he said.
The library is rising from the ashes into a three-storey facility, spanning over 1,000 square metres, to house 250,000 books in various languages covering science, philosophy, self-help, art, history, fiction, novels, poetry and children’s books. Mansour said the library is scheduled to open before end of this year.
Mansour, who has been in the publishing industry for over 40 years, stressed that “nothing will stop me from publishing and distributing books. The book industry is the only profession I know and I will never leave the field I have specialised in for most my life.”
The destruction of the library on May 18 sparked a flood of donations to revive the project. “Whenever I remember the scene, I feel deeply sad. Sometimes you have no choice but to get up again and keep going.”
Mansour began his career in the book business in the 1980s through the printing sector before gradually establishing his own publishing house and launching the library in 2000. “From compiling pages and preparing a book for printing, I gained experience in all stages of the book production.”
These knowledge resources, he said, preserve the collective Palestinian identity and memory through the written word.
From Palestine to global markets
Through his library, Mansour aims to export the work of Palestinian authors, poets, novelists and academics into global markets.
“We have talents and brilliant minds who deserve an opportunity. I want to show the world what Gaza has to offer.”
Gaza, he said, has a high readership. “Reading is part of the lifestyle in Gaza. People as young as 12 read extensively in a variety of fields.”
Mansour is determined to provide uninterrupted access of books to his community.
Over the next year, Mansour said he will focus his efforts on translating Western literature from prominent authors including Victor Hugo and Fyodor Dostoevsky, into Arabic.
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