Q&A with Nineveh Press founder Tomas Beth-Avdalla
Tomas Bet-Avdalla is the founder of the Nineveh Press. The Nineveh Press publishes new books and reprints old and rare books and periodicals concerning Assyrian language, literature, history, and culture.
Q: Where were you born?
I was born in Augsburg, Germany, but I grew up in Gothenburg, Sweden. My parents are from Tur Abdin, Assyria.
Q: You are based in Sweden—what’s the Assyrian community like there?
The first group of Assyrians came to Sweden in 1967, and Assyrians today are a large minority group in the country. They come from different parts of the Middle East, and belong to different Assyrian churches. In Sweden, they live in most major cities, where they are organized in different local Assyrian associations and Assyrian churches. The Federation organizes most of these local associations, and Assyrian political parties are also represented in the country.
Q: Before we get into the Nineveh Press, can you tell us a little about your work with MARA?
The Modern Assyrian Research Archive (MARA) is a digital and physical archive founded in 2008 by doctoral students and academic professionals interested in Assyrian Studies. The aim of MARA is to locate, collect, and preserve source material and literature on the history, culture, and language of Assyrians from the nineteenth century onward. The source material is digitized and made available by MARA is comprised of images of unpublished documents and manuscripts, non-copyrighted publications, and audio recordings of oral sources collected all over the world. MARA’s goal is to compile the world’s largest digital and physical archive on Modern and Contemporary Assyrian culture by making use of extensive international private and professional networks.
I am one of the founders of MARA and have served as its project manager since its establishment. Our first years with MARA were funded, and I was able to work as an employee to carry out the work under the direction of MARA’s Advisory Board and MARA’s Foundation Board, but due to lack of funding in recent years, all of our work has been voluntary. I am currently the lead of our team of volunteers.
Q: What inspired you to establish the Nineveh Press?
Actually the same reason that I decided to get involved with MARA, and that is to take care of our modern Assyrian literary heritage and spread it. MARA has contributed to several now published books and articles, and I found it important to contribute to the Assyrian community and others and publish some important works.
Within Nineveh Press, I have established a book series called MARA Collected Texts, of which David B. Perley’s A Collection of Writings on Assyrians is the first book.
Q: How many books have you published so far?
To date, I have published two books. The first book is a translation from Swedish into English of The Assyrians – From Nineveh to Södertälje, which is a short introduction to the Assyrians by the author Svante Lundgren. The second book is the collection of writings by David B. Perley A Collection of Writings on Assyrians, which I have edited. Occasionally some new titles and reprints from the publisher Beṯ-Froso & Beṯ-Prasa Nsibin are made available through Nineveh Press.
Q: You’ve mentioned your new publication, A Collection of Writings on Assyrians a couple times now. Can you tell us more about it?
David B. Perley was a prominent and prolific author who devoted his life to writing and to the Assyrian cause. The book is a compilation of Perley’s writings including articles, speeches and letters. By reading his numerous writings, I have learned a lot myself, received clarity on many issues, but above all, I have been strongly influenced by his straightforwardness, clear language, and affection to achieve something for the Assyrian nation through the written word.
I started compiling his writings years ago, feeling that the work of such a powerful writer must be published in a dignified manner. Up until now, his published works were only made available in several Assyrian magazines that are currently inaccessible to most. This project in total has taken me six years to complete. All of the effort and all of the work it has taken was worth it.
I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the Assyrian Foundation of America for their support towards the printing of this book.
Q: Who is your all-time favorite author?
It is difficult to choose just one, and therefore I will have to name several: Orhan Pamuk, Theodor Kallifatides, Naum Palak, Jan Guillou, and of course, David B. Perley.
Q: What does a typical day look like for you?
I am a freelance graphic designer and work mainly with designing printed materials such as books, magazines, and flyers. Actually, with the Nineveh Press, I design all of the books myself. Most of my free time goes to MARA and the Nineveh Press—and of course to family and friends.
Q: So, what’s up next at the Nineveh Press?
I am completing the second book in the book series MARA Collected Texts—a collection of the writings of Dr. Abraham K. Yoosuf. He was one of the Assyrian delegates to the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. Very interesting texts about the aftermath of the Assyrian Genocide during WWI will be published in this book.
Q: Picture the Nineveh Press ten years from now. What does it look like?
Since establishing the Nineveh Press, I have received very positive feedback, and many have contacted me wanting to publish their works. It’s exciting, but it is important to be realistic and know that this activity is limited, especially when interest to read such texts is not so widespread. But I still hope to contribute to change that, and inspire them with new literature and knowledge of the Assyrians in modern times. I hope the Nineveh Press will spark an interest among today’s Assyrian youth.
Q: Three words that come to mind when you hear the word Assyria:
My native country—for me, as someone who has never lived there—is really more like a thought, a dream, and in the heart as opposed to a reality; but still no more than a reality for the drastically diminishing minority of Assyrians who remain there.
Q: Where can people purchase your books? Do you ship internationally?
All books published by the Nineveh Press are made available through Lulu. Those interested should visit lulu.com/ninevehpress. When an order is placed through Lulu, the book is printed and shipped to the customer, wherever he or she resides. For more information, visit the official website: www.ninevehpress.com or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow the Nineveh Press on social media where you can receive the latest news, information, and inspiration.