By Sofia Jesus

The annual conference of the Asia Pacific Writers and Translations (APWT) organization will probably be held in Macau in 2019, the association’s General Manager Sanaz Fatouhi tells mART.

“Like all APWT events, that event too will be hosted by a university and we are in negotiation with the University of Macau to be our likely host,” Ms Fatouhi explains. “We are also looking forward to partnering with The Script Road — Macau Literary Festival and also possibility the HK Literary Festival,” she adds

Ms Fatouhi is one of the guests of this year’s edition of The Script Road.

APTW’s 2016 annual conference was held in Guangzhou, China, at Sun Yat-Sen University. “We had a one day event in Macau and Hong Kong, where members did some reading with the local reading and poetry groups,” she recalls.

This year, APTW’s annual event will be held in October in Bali, Indonesia, “just prior to the Ubud Writers and Readers’ Festival”. “Our host will be the Ganesha University of Education,” she says. In 2018, the event will be held in the Gold Coast, Australia, she adds.

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Sanaz Fatouhi. Image by Eduardo Martins

Ms Fatouhi took on the job of General Manager of APWT last year, replacing Jane Camens, which founded the organization in 2005. The association is aimed at bringing together writers, translators and everyone in the literary field in the Asia Pacific region, so they can build a relationship, Ms Fatouhi explains. She adds that the work done by her predecessor was “enormously great”.

As General Manager of APWT, Ms Fatouhi hopes she can increase its membership base — the association currently has “about 300 members”. She says she will also “try to collaborate more with various organizations,” as well as to try to get the organization “more financially stable”.

Ms Fatouhi has seen “a rising trend across Asia” in what concerns the work of translators. “I’m seeing that translation is becoming bigger and translators are getting much more attention, well-deserved attention,” she points out. Investment in the field is still not sufficient, she admits, but it’s getting better.

As for writers ­in the Asia Pacific region, they face a challenge similar to writers elsewhere: the difficulties in “getting published”. “The publishing world is a cruel world,” she comments. But she also sees as “very encouraging” the value and recognition that is now being given to self-publishing. Before, she says — “like 15 years ago” — that was not well regarded; people would think self-publishing was done by those who could not get published otherwise. Now, she argues, people are starting to see it as a choice. “And people are becoming more open to reading these kinds of self-published books.”

Ms Fatouhi believes international festivals “are very important to get writers across the world”. Government-led initiatives like the investment recently done by Malaysia in translating national authors can also help authors gain exposure, she says. Another important aspect is to invest in the training of literary translators.

Ms Fatouhi has co-produced the documentary Love Marriage in Kabul, filmed in Afghanistan and screened in the current edition of The Script Road. The documentary has won numerous awards around the world, having been shortlisted for Australia’s Walkley Award. Before that, she was also involved in a short documentary called Hidden Generation, about women who opted for self-burning as a form of suicide, also filmed in Afghanistan. This experience touched her “deeply,” she tells mART. She felt “helpless,” “hopeless,” “powerless”.

Hidden Generation was not as successful as Love Marriage in Kabul, she says. It was perhaps “too dark” and people kind of “shied away” from the topic.

Her traveling and “life-changing” experiences filming in Afghanistan have led her to write a book about them. She hopes that work can be published soon, as she feels it is important to share another side of that journey, such as “the unique experience of going to Afghanistan as a young woman”. She was 24 years-old the first time she went there to film.

Ms Fatouhi describes herself as “an artist” — she has been involved in filmmaking, photography, painting — but writing is currently her main passion, she tells mART.

Ms Fatouhi has also finished writing a novel and is looking for a publisher. The novel, she has, is partly influenced by her Iranian origin. She was born in Iran in 1981 — “I was a war baby” — and later on moved a lot from country to country due to her father job. She is currently based in Australia.

She is the author of the book The Literature Of The Iranian Diaspora: Meaning And Identity Since The Islamic Revolution (2015), based on the pioneer study she did for her PhD thesis. She says she fell in love with diaspora literature as an undergraduate and was fascinated with what she discovered with her research, as the books she analysed “deal with so many different problems Iranians are dealing with in diaspora”.