Going on Now: Arab and Arabic Events at the Free, Online Edinburgh Book Fest

The Edinburgh International Book Fest is going on now through the end of the month. This year, events are free, and there are a number of Arab- and Arabic-literature-focused events:

Watch the video: Syrian picture-book author-illustrator Nadine Kaadan

Nadine Kaadan was among the first authors to start off the virtual Edinburgh International Book Fest, drawing and reading from her picture book Tomorrow, which she translated to English.

The video is online.


August 21: Queer Arab Vanguard

Novelist, memoirist and journalist Randa Jarrar, author Hicham Tahir, documentary playwright and theatremaker Raphael Khouri, and drag performer, writer and filmmaker Amrou al-Kadhi all join translator and editor Alice Guthrie to discuss and read from their work.

Guthrie said, over email: “I guess I’d most love for it to reach anyone queer or questioning the gender & sexuality mainstream who hasn’t yet had access to living breathing creative clever funny beautiful queer Arab writers such as these . . . and if that audience is in the SWANA region or of SWANA heritage then that’s especially exciting. But I also think they’re really interesting artists for anyone to engage with, that their work is of value aside from their identity or the queering they do.”

This pre-recorded event is set to air at 1 p.m. British Summer Time. It will be available only 30 days after recording.


August 26: Adania Shibli and Fatima Bhutto talk ‘Minor Detail’

A novel in two parts, Adania Shibli’s Minor Detail, beautifully translated by Elisabeth Jaquette. The narrative begins in 1949 from the perspective of an Israeli soldier, operating with his platoon at the desert border with Egypt. It shifts to the perspective of a woman in present-day Ramallah, an amateur detective of sorts who reads about these events of 1949 and decides to try to discover what happened to this woman. Their lives and stories overlap and intersect.

In the event, Shibli talks with Pakistani novelist Fatima Bhutto about the background to her book.

This pre-recorded event is set to air at 1 p.m. British Summer Time.


August 26: Nadine Aisha Jassat, Sabrina Mahfouz, & Amanda Thomson

Three UK-based writers talk about Cape Town, South Africa. According to organizers, “Drawn to the unique flora and fauna that permeates southern Africa and curious about how it might reflect the land on which it grows, Scottish visual artist and writer Dr Amanda Thomson and poet Nadine Aisha Jassat, deemed one of 30 Inspiring Young Women Under 30 in Scotland by YWCA Scotland, found themselves wandering the steep slopes of Table Mountain and Cape Point National Park, and discovering the innovative horticultural practices of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

“Thomson was later joined by writer Sabrina Mahfouz, herself interested in contrasting her experience growing up in urban environments with life on the Cape Peninsula.”

This is a pre-recorded, audio-only event.


August 27: Susan Abulhawa and Ahdaf Soueif

Abulhawa and Soueif will talk about Abulhawa’s second novel, Against The Loveless World. Organizers write: “Opening with the testimony of Nahr from the Cube, a tiny breeze-block room where she has been imprisoned in solitary confinement for several years, she recounts the story of her life and her move to Palestine. It is a profoundly moving tale at that, in which she learns to deal with subordination and violence – learns what steps she will need to take for survival.”

This pre-recorded event is set to air at 2:30 p.m. British Summer Time.


August 28: Amin Maalouf & Jonathan Sacks: ‘Rediscovering Our Moral Compass’

Maalouf is a widely beloved and acclaimed writer and thinker whose fifth novel, The Rock of Tanios, won the Prix Goncourt. His latest nonfiction work is Adrift: How the World Lost Its WayThis book is set to appear in Frank Wynne’s translation September 1, 2020. Their discussion will reportedly focus on how “a divided world might rediscover a shared humanity.” It’s chaired by former Bishop of Edinburgh Richard Holloway.

This event will take place live, starting at 4 p.m. British Summer Time, and will include an author Q&A.