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Book lovers at the Sharjah International Book Fair. Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: All art comes from an unlikely source — the “discomfort” in this word — Yann Martel, the best-selling author of Life of Pi, which was turned into an award-winning movie, said during a Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) online session shown on Saturday.

In an interview with Porter Anderson, editor-in-chief of Publishing Perspectives, the novelist said his work originated from observing the unusual. “You tend to notice things as they strike you — not just physical things, but also emotions. All art starts with a certain discomfort with things. Artists try to recognise their discomfort with the world, and create art as a result,” added Martel.

Latest work

Yann Martel

Martel lives with his novels for a long time — three years in the case of his latest work, Son of Nobody. “I am a one-trick pony. I cannot work on multiple books at the same time. I live with my book, research it, keep going back and forth as research throws up new ideas. However, the gaze remains steady.” Son of Nobody is about a scholar who unexpectedly gets a scholarship to Oxford and while browsing old texts there discovers new aspects of the Trojan War. “It is a novel told in fragments, in verses and footnotes as his research uncovers new facts. There is a parallel story in the footnotes about a scholar of those times, Solas, offering an alternative perspective of the Trojan War, called Soliad.”

SIBF 2020 online sessions can be viewed by registering at The 39th edition of the SIBF has adopted a fully digital format for the 64 events that are being streamed on the virtual platform over the 11 days of the fair.

Wizard of words

Shashi Tharoor

In another online session, Shashi Tharoor, an Indian author and politician well known for his formidable vocabulary, revealed that his favourite word is ‘read’. “I love the word ‘read’ because it is only by reading that you acquire all the other words. It is important to read every single day, especially books, as it makes you appreciate the world and broaden your horizons,” he said, urging the audience to have an active engagement with the written word.

Commenting on his latest literary offering, The Battle of Belonging, published on October 31, which explores concepts of nationalism, patriotism and citizenship, he said: “The book is a product of many years’ reflection, but its fruition became possible only because of the concentrated time available during the recent lockdown to devote to both research and writing.”

‘I don’t believe in writing provocatively’

Calling it his “magnum opus on the theory, evolution and practice of nationalism across the globe and especially in India”, he hoped the ideas represented in it will lead to constructive discussions. “I don’t believe in writing provocatively; I think one needs to write to stimulate thought, and stimulate argument and reflection, and that is what I hope this book will do.”

The ‘wizard of words’ concluded his session offering two interesting words for the SIBF audience: ‘defenestrate’, which he describes as “a lovely little word for jettisoning or rejecting an idea”; and ‘Panglossian’, which he added “is an apt word for these dark, coronavirus times and which means being excessively optimistic”.

New start

2020 may have been the year that brought the world to a standstill but for independent publisher Sunono, based in Scotland, it is just the start of a promising journey, said CEO and founder Feda Shtia at SIBF.

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Feda Shtia, CEO and founder of Sunono. Image Credit: Supplied

“What makes our first ever book fair experience even more special is that it was a chance introduction at an earlier edition of SIBF, that paved the way for my journey into writing and publishing,” said Shtia, who launched Sunono earlier this year. “A couple of years ago at SIBF, I was introduced to a project launched by the ‘1001 Titles’ initiative of Sharjah-based cultural organisation, Knowledge without Borders, that supported independent authors with finance and even guided them through the entire formalities of publishing a book. Authors were introduced to publishers and illustrators and we attended workshops and lectures to upskill ourselves.”

Armed with this foundation, she decided to start small and self-publish a series of four bedtime stories in 2017-18, featuring DeebDeeb, modelled on her young son.

Coloured bracelets

This year, as part of precautions for COVID-19, SIBF visitors are sporting colourful bracelets to assist the fair management, volunteers and security personnel in ensuring a safe experience. The bracelets come in four colours — yellow, orange, green and purple — and are indicative of the four fixed time slots: 10am to 1pm, 1pm to 4pm, 4pm to 7pm, and 7pm to 10pm, respectively. Visitors are selecting from and pre-booking one slot on the fair’s website,, before arriving at the Expo Centre Sharjah. Upon arrival, they are given a bracelet as per their time slot selection, to monitor the times of their entry and exit. Visitors are being notified via text message when their visiting time is about to expire, and are being allowed to stay for the following time slot, space permitting.

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This year, as part of precautions for COVID-19, SIBF visitors are sporting colourful bracelets to assist the fair management, volunteers and security personnel in ensuring a safe experience. Image Credit: Supplied

Library conference

Sharjah Book Authority (SBA) is curating the seventh edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair-American Library Association Library Conference virtually from Tuesday to Thursday on the Zoom platform. The event will see the participation of more than 400 librarians, archivists and industry professionals from 39 countries. Themed ‘Libraries and Librarians Meeting the Challenges in the New Normal’, the conference will be a platform for experts to discuss the challenges as well as opportunities that face libraries in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and to share best practices.