ABU DHABI: “It was a day to remind you that you can shiver all you want, sniff all you want, the universe is still oblivious. And if you ask why the inhumane temperature, the universe will answer you with tight lips and a cold tone and tell you to go back where you came from if you do not like it here.”
Where else might you hear Beirut-born Canadian writer Rawi Hage quoting extracts from his second novel Cockroach, other than at a session at this year’s Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (ADIBF)?
Cockroach and the author’s first book De Niro’s Game have received many literary accolades. He will be among about 50 authors and 900 publishers from all over the world celebrating the 23rd edition of this annual gathering of literary greats. Held from April 24 to 29 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec), the emphasis is on the rich culture, literature and traditions of the GCC countries with a special focus on the authors, poets and musicians from these parts.
The fair has become the point of reference for booksellers, publishers and distributors in the Arabian Gulf region, with more than 500,000 titles on display each year. This year’s exhibition has grown by 15 per cent to accommodate hundreds of exhibitors from over 50 countries, offering a mix of cultural, intellectual and commercial publications in over 30 languages.
Jumaa Al Qubaisi, Director, ADIBF, says it is the most specialised and one of the fastest growing publishing events in the region, providing an ideal platform where business meets culture.
“The Cultural Programme at the ADIBF has diversified in parallel over the past years in keeping with the diversity of the residents of the UAE, while the professional programme offers our international and Arab exhibitors a venue to meet market leaders, conduct business and be updated on the latest publishing trends,” he says.
The cultural programme offers panel discussions, readings, talks and performances by authors and literary experts from the Middle East, Europe, Asia, North Africa and North America. John Danalis, Australian author and illustrator of children’s books with a gift for story-telling, will be among those conducting a session. His popular picture books are Schumann the Shoeman and Riding the Black Cockatoo, a non-fiction account of his journey into the spiritual heart of aboriginal Australia.
In November last year he toured Oman and the UAE by bicycle, clocking up some 1,000 kilometres between Muscat and Abu Dhabi. “Riding for up to 12 hours a day in 45 degree heat does wonderful things to the imagination,” says Danalis, who mastered the skill of writing while riding.
Algerian author Ahlam Mosteghanimi, one of the most influential women in the Arab world, will be signing her new book Black Suits You Well at ADIBF on April 25 and 27. Published in November 2012 by Naufal Publishers, it has sold over 100,000 copies in two months.
Other sessions include Rooftop Rhythms, a session of open poetry night where amateur performers recite their own lyrical compositions on stage and the Library of Arabic Literature, where classical and pre-modern Arabic literature will be edited and translated into English and published in parallel-text format.
The fair will also have an ‘Illustrators’ Corner’ where illustrators – anyone from comic strip designers, graphic artists, typographers to calligraphers - can showcase their products. Artists from Spain, Switzerland, the UAE, Syria and Malaysia have already confirmed attendance.
When: April 24-29, 9am-10pm (Friday: 4pm-10pm)