Sights and Sounds from This Year’s Sharjah International Book Fair

Last week, contributor Kate Kasimor walked the grounds of the Sharjah International Book Fair, which runs through November 16. She shared a few photos and a few of her thoughts from the talks:

Entering the fairgrounds. Photo credit: Kate Kasimor.

Entering the fair

Last Wednesday, Kasimor attended a talk given by Sudanese novelist Buthaina Khadr Mekki and Lebanese novelist Najwa Barakat about dialogue and communication in the Arabic novel. Barakat felt that, in general, narration dominates in Arabic novels and, because Arab cultures were more communalist, individual characters in Arabic novels tended to be weaker.

Lebanese novelist Najwa Barakat speaking at the Sharjah International Book Fair.

Lebanese novelist Najwa Barakat speaking at the Sharjah International Book Fair. Photo credit: Kate Kasimor.

Mekki offered a different view, saying that societies were changing, allowing individuals a greater voice. She particularly pointed to “post-Arab Spring” novels and how the Internet had become part of the contemporary novel.

Sudanese novelist Buthaina Khadr Mekki speaking at the Sharjah International Book Fair. Photo credit: Kate Kasimor.

Sudanese novelist Buthaina Khadr Mekki speaking at the Sharjah International Book Fair. Photo credit: Kate Kasimor.

On Thursday, Kasimor listened to Iraqi poet-novelist Sinan Antoon, Palestinian novelist Anwar Hamed, and Saudi novelist Mohammed Hasan Alwan — all longlisted or shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) — talk about “the future of the IPAF.”

Sinan Antoon, Anwar Hamed, and Mohammad Hassan Alwan speaking at the Sharjah International Book Fair. Photo credit: Kate Kasimor.

Sinan Antoon, Anwar Hamed, moderator M. Sawwaaf, and Mohammad Hassan Alwan speaking at the Sharjah International Book Fair. Photo credit: Kate Kasimor.

According to Kasimor, Hamed talked about the crisis of access to books — how difficult it was to move books from country to country. Alwan said that he saw that reading was on the uptick in Saudi Arabia; that, in the past, book fairs had been considered organized government activities, but lately in Riyadh more readers had been participating. Antoon pointed to the makeup of the jury, noting that the quality of the year’s choices depended on the jury.

According to Gulf News, which reported on the event, Antoon also said, “Considering the economic hardship we experience and the state of conflicts in the region, the Arab readership have reason to congratulate themselves.”

According to Kasimor, Alwan said that, while readers are on the increase, the crisis lies with publishers who view books as a commodity rather than culture. According to Gulf News, he said that “the industry falls short in good marketing.”

Books from the Dar al-Adab stand. Photo credit: Kate Kasimor.

Books from the Dar al-Adab stand; a number are IPAF honorees. Photo credit: Kate Kasimor.

Schoolchildren lining up outside one of the expo halls. Photo credit: Kate Kasimor.

Schoolchildren lining up outside one of the expo halls. Photo credit: Kate Kasimor.

Lebanon was the fair’s guest of honor, and nearly 100 Lebanese publishers are at the fair, in addition to Lebanese musicians, thinkers, and authors.

Lebanon's "guest of honor" pavilion. Photo credit: Kate Kasimor.

Lebanon’s “guest of honor” pavilion. Photo credit: Kate Kasimor.

On the first day, the winners of the Etisalat Prize(s) for Arabic Children’s Literature were announced, including the YA prize for Noura Al Noman’s Ajwan

Etisalat-winning titles. Photo credit: Kate Kasimor.

Etisalat-winning titles. Photo credit: Kate Kasimor.

More:

Gulf News: Sharjah International Book Fair: Minimal increase in prices

The National: Big names from the subcontinent at Sharjah Book Fair

Publishers Weekly: Sharjah 2013: Sheikh Warns Against the ‘Aggression’ of Globalization

Emirates 24/7Publishers scramble for translation grants



Categories: book fairs

2 replies

  1. Unfortunately, all the talks seemed to be scheduled for 8.30pm which is way past our bedtime in Ras Al Khaimah! I’m hoping to make it tomorrow just to buy some books – I’m afraid that was all the fair was good for last year in my case as well :-(

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