Friday Links: Emirates Lit Fest, (Revolutionary?) Poetry in Saudi Arabia, More

Emirates Lit Fest Ends Tomorrow

Regional and international coverage of Emirates Lit Fest has been subdued this year, in part—one assumes—because there’s so much else going on in the Arabic-writing world. Gulf publications continue to report steadily from the festival, although mostly about the festival’s non-Arabic-writing guests.

Emirates 24|7: Mohammed visits Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (for a picture of Sheikh Mohamed with a wild-haired Wole Soyinka)

Gulf News has a video clip of Sheikh Mohammad at the Lit Fest: Literary events bridge cultures, says Mohammad

Gulf News: Soyinka, Palin celebrate written word

The National: Author charts manifesto for compassionate life (British author Karen Armstrong)

There’s also interesting commentary over at Publishing Perspectives: Can Book Fairs and Cultural Institutions Change International Perceptions?

But to get a full sense of the breadth of events, follow the Twitter hashtag #dxblit.

Still to come are sessions from Beirut39 laureate Mohammad Hassan Alwan and Emirati short-story writer Maryam al-Saedi; Haifa Bitar and Salimah Saleh will speak about “Women Writing from the Arab World,” and you can “meet four authors shortlisted for the International Prize for Arabic Fiction.”

Jeddah bookstore packed with revolutionary readers?

The Washington Post reports that “Signs of dissent becoming more visible among Saudi Arabian youths.” Their evidence? More interest in books:

It is 9 p.m. on a Monday, and the Jasur bookstore cafe in Jiddah’s chic Hamra district is hopping. Upstairs, Saudi men and women pack a poetry reading, while downstairs a book club discusses Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller, “Blink.” Nearby, a team of young comic writers is hashing out the latest in a series of YouTube episodes that satirize Saudi politics and society.

However, comedian Omar Hussein—who does part-time stand-up—notes that, “We don’t cross any red lines.”

Ibrahim al-Koni: ‘The idea of writing about these events has befallen me like a disease’

Pre-eminent author Ibrahim Al-Koni spoke with Qantara about revolutionary uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, and his native Libya. When asked, “Is Mohammed Bouazizi an Arab hero?” al-Koni said:

I would like to describe this man as a saint. The entire Arab world should be grateful to him. He is the Christ of our time, he has borne his cross and sacrificed his life. A symbol of hope. The earthquakes currently churning things up throughout the Arab world were triggered by him. If I write about him, then at the same time I write about everything that he has set in motion. That is literature, it describes the world in an indirect, metaphorical way. The idea of writing about these events has befallen me like a disease. That’s extremely fruitful for a writer, a deep, titanic inspiration.

No Arabic books in translation…

…on this year’s Independent Foreign Fiction Prize longlist.  Although I suppose I shouldn’t allow these sorts of literary awards to get my goat. Anyhow, in better news:

Graphic novel updates

In Cairo, the first comic-book-focused store opened in Heliopolis mid-February. It’s called: Kryptonite.

And in Lebanon, Samandal Comics announced that مربى و لبن, by Lena Merhej, is now available from Dar Onboz.

If you missed the Edward Said Memorial Lecture by Ahdaf Soueif

You can see it on vimeo.