If You’re in Edinburgh: Highlights from the Fests

Sarah Irving isn’t sure why you wouldn’t be joining her in Edinburgh:

By Sarah Irving

images (1)What do you mean if you’re in Edinburgh? Of course you’re in Edinburgh! It’s the festival, and from the perspective of a shell-shocked current resident who’s never been here during the festival before, the entire planet seems to have emptied itself onto the city in a roiling mass of humanity, all clutching brochures for one of the umpteen festivals happening this month (THE Festival, the Fringe, the Book festival, the Book Fringe, the Art Festival, the Peace Festival… I could go on). The Fringe listings alone are an A4 book, half an inch thick.

Anyway, in amongst the madness there are some gems to be had for lovers of Arab literature. Here are some of them – I can’t promise an exhaustive list, but I’ve done my best:

At the Book Fringe:

Penny Johnson and Raja Shehadeh read from and discuss themes raised in their new book, Seeking Palestine,  on Monday, August 12 at 1:15 p.m. Ahdaf Soueif says of Johnson and Shehadeh’s new edited volume of writing on Palestine and exile: “How can an essentially sad story give such pleasure? The answer is in these narratives: these stories, memoirs, poems are a pleasure and an education; personal, vivid, original, sometimes witty, always accomplished, always honest. They are a testimonial to the human spirit, and to the growing contribution of Palestine to literature.”


Iraqi poet and journalist Sabreen Kadhim was supposed to appear at Reel Iraq events across the UK in March, but, in an increasingly worrying trend for artists and writers from across the world, she was denied a visa. This time, however, she will be allowed into the country, and will be speaking at the Book Fringe along with Krystelle Bamford, who ‘versioned’ her poems for Reel Iraq. Saturday August 17 at 1:00 p.m.


At the International Book Festival:

Shereen El Feki will be talking about her book Sex and the Citadel, in which she says that “a political revolution may be unfolding in the Arab world but a sexual revolution is a long way off”. 12:30 p.m. on Friday, August 16.


Palestinian journalist Abdel Bari Atwan & Financial Times security correspondent Mark Huband talk to British news broadcaster Gavin Esler about Western news reporting of conflicts, and the (many) problems with it. 11:30am on Monday, August 19.


Tash Aw (from Malaysia via London) & Lebanese diaspora novelist Rawi Hage, “two ferociously talented writers whose books depict a larger-than-life, carnivalesque world” talks about their novels. 8:30pm on Monday, August 19.


Poetry from the Egyptian Revolution: Amin Haddad appears live from Cairo, whilst Eskanderella perform musical versions of his and other revolutionary poems. 8:30pm on Sunday, August 25.


Sarah Irving

[http://www.sarahirving.co.uk] is author of a biography of Leila Khaled and of the Bradt Guide to Palestine, and has been a journalist and reviewer for over a decade. She is currently a postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh and is dipping a tentative toe into the waters of Arabic-English translation.