Sharjah: People are descending on Sharjah International Book Fair in record-breaking numbers this year as it makes a significant impact in terms of both popularity and size. Attendance at the event has already surpassed 135,000 in the first three days.
The annual book fair which counts itself among the biggest in the world saw a record 70,000 visitors turning out on Friday alone.
The director of the fair, Ahmad Al Ameri, said: “We are delighted that so many people are coming to enjoy all the wonderful events here. It is no doubt that two very popular authors increased the visitor figures on Friday. It is particularly good to see families coming. It is important that our children grow up with a love of reading and the written word.”
Best-selling novelist Arundhati Roy packed a hall at the fair yesterday when 2,000 people arrived to hear her speak on writing, politics, and her love for her homeland India.
Roy, author of The God of Small Things, which won the 1998 Man Booker Prize for fiction, announced that she is writing a second book, but would not reveal what it is about.
“Fiction is a lonely business,” she said. “Writing the book was like being in jail, the book took me over and even if I had wanted to escape from it, I couldn’t.”
Roy has written many essays on a wide range of issues that affect modern-day India.
She added: “When I write essays, then I feel a part of the people of India.”
The 50-year-old also rejected the idea that she is an activist, saying: “There is something ‘missionary’ about the word activist that I don’t like.” However, much of her work focuses on the plight of the poorest and most marginalised sections of Indian society.
“Writing is in my DNA. When you write you must be accurate about the detail, space and place. I think fishermen must make good writers; they spend so much time keeping quiet and plotting against the fish,” she added.
She also told the audience that, given the chance, she would not rewrite her famous novel. “I don’t have the urge to rewrite. Not because I think it is perfect but I am not the type to keep changing something when it is finished.”
Algerian writer Ahlam Mostaghanmi also drew a packed audience for a reading from her book, Black is Nice for You, in addition to reading two of her poems set to music — and the announcement that she has begun work on a follow-up novel.
The US Embassy’s American Centre for Press and Cultural Affairs won the Best Foreign Publisher Award at the Sharjah International Book Fair and sought to donate the prize to the Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services.
The US, which has participated at the event for 27 years through its 31-year history, pledged the Dh25,000 prize award to a continuation of the partnership and humanitarian projects with Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services.
“The US Embassy most recently worked on a project with the City to empower disabled women, and the prize money will sponsor further workshops,” Michael H. Corbin, US ambassador to the UAE said on Saturday.
The American Centre for Press and Cultural Affairs is the public outreach arm of the US diplomatic mission in the UAE. At Sharjah Book Fair, its exhibition stand has been selling American study books translated into Arabic on subjects from economics to political science, business studies and teaching aids.
25,000 visitors on first day of Sharjah International Book Fair
40,000 people visit event on second day
70,000 visitors on Friday