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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
The National: Big names from the subcontinent at Sharjah Book Fair
Publishers Weekly: Sharjah 2013: Sheikh Warns Against the ‘Aggression’ of Globalization
Emirates 24/7: Publishers scramble for translation grants