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A Special Supplement for The Sharjah
International Book Fair 2017

Ahmed Al Ameri

A passion for knowledge:

2 His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi
Highlights from the 2017 Sharjah Book Fair Professional Program
4 Ed Nawotka, Publishers Weekly

The Sharjah International Book Fair: An Introduction

5 Roger Tagholm

Reaching Milestones in Arabic Literary Translation

6 Ed Nawotka

Buying and Selling Rights in Sharjah

7 Ed Nawotka

4th Sharjah International Book Fair/American Library

8 Association Library Conference
Michael Dowling

Ancient Manuscript Brings Quran Closer

9 Roger Tagholm

10 Sharjah Publishing City in Photos

12 Q&A with IPA President Michiel Kolman

14 Country of Honourthe UK

15 Hachette Antoine: Publishing and Bookselling in the Lebanon

16 Sharjah: UNESCO World Book Capital

17 Q&A with author Vikas Swarup

18 Q&A with author Lisa Genova

19 Q&A with author Mohammed Asan Alwan

20 Q&A with author Neel Mukherjee


by Ahmed Al Ameri, Chairman
of Sharjah Book Authority

Welcome to the 36th edition of the Sharjah International Grant, which was launched in 2011 with a $300k fund, has
Book Fair (SIBF), which takes place under the patronage of to date facilitated the translation of over 300 titles, and
His Highness, Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, continues to grow. Last year, 767 applications for the grant
the United Arab Emirates Supreme Council Member and were submitted, a 236% increase from 2015. Grants were
Ruler of Sharjah. awarded to 73 titles across 22 publishers in 2015, a 17%
We are particularly proud this year to be launching Sharjah increase over the previous year.
Publishing City (SPC) to coincide with the Book Fair. SPC is Members of the American Library Association (ALA) will
the worlds first publishing Free Zone, giving the global book again be meeting their counterparts from the Arab world for
industry the opportunity to capitalize on tax free privileges and ALAs most ambitious international professional development
strategic access to markets in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. collaboration to date with over 300 professionals scheduled
I hope you will take time to visit this facility with us. to participate.
I would like to thank again all our partners and friends Our seventh Cultural Program sees a wide array of
in the UAE and internationally for supporting the Fair over international writers, including Vikas Swarup, Lisa Genova,
many years and for their support and commitment to Sharjah Mohammed Hanif, Sarfraz Manzoor, Lang Leav, Mohammed
Publishing City, these partnerships that we have forged Hasan Alwan, Youssef Rakha, Wasim Akram, Wasini al-Araj,
across the world are of great importance to us and to the Ibrahim Nasrallah, Amir Taj al-Sir and Abdo Khal.
Sharjah International Book Fair. I can also announce that our agreement with Publishers
I am delighted also to welcome the UK as our Guest of Weekly to publish the magazine in an Arabic edition has
Honour as part of the UK/UAE 2017, a bilateral year of cultural come to fruition with the first issue available at the Fair.
exchange between the United Kingdom and the United Arab Our successful co-operation with New York University also
Emirates. I would like to thank our partners, The British Council; continues this year with the Publishers Training Program,
the UKs Department for International Trade; the London Book in association with the NYU School of Professional Studies
Fair; and the UK Publishers Association. (NYUSPS) Centre for Publishing.
This year, 2017, marks our seventh Professional Program. I hope you enjoy A World of Words, designed to showcase
We have over 200 publishing professionals from more than all the developments in the Arab market and to deepen our
50 countries, including Bangladesh, China, South Africa, understanding of the huge opportunities that exist within it,
Indonesia, Nigeria and Uzbekistan. The SIBF Translation and in the international publishing world which we serve.
A passion for knowledge
The noted scholar and author Jerry Brotton pays tribute to His Highness
Sheikh Dr Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah

Now more than ever, the world needs rulers like His Highness, with its Indian dominions. The station was an English imperial
with his grasp of history and his belief in the importance of initiative, but as His Highness points out, it also heralded the
the humanities. His project Knowledge without Borders has opening of Sharjah to the wider world, an opportunity that
circulated 1.6 million books to families across the Emirate. throughout his reign has allowed him to establish Sharjah as the
He is the author of over 30 books of history and memoir, cultural Emirate.
most concentrating on the history of Sharjah and the Gulf, His Highness and I share a passion for writing history
all of them offering impeccable and highly detailed historical that attempts to understand the reasons for the enduring
research alongside a dignified insistence on not only situating misunderstandings that have bedeviled relations between
the region within the wider world, but also challenging dominant East and West over many centuries.
assumptions about relations between East and West. While in Tale of a City and in his previous book Under the
Tale of a City, his new book, is a further distinguished Flag of Occupation (2015), His Highness has concentrated on
addition to this work. As its title suggests, it is a striking evocation Sharjah in the 19th century, he has also written important works
of Sharjah from the mid 19th century up to the signing of the Air on the earlier periods, including Power Struggles and Trade in
Station Agreement with the British Government in 1932. His the Gulf 1620-1820, and The Gulf in Historic Maps 1478-1861.
Highnesss vivid descriptions and accompanying illustrations of Like him, I have an interest in looking into the past to discover
Sharjah during this period give us a fascinating glimpse of how the roots of our current problems. The encounters between
the Emirate has evolved in the intervening years. East and West in the past are less familiar to us and more
Sharjah in 1925 consisted mainly of an irregular line of amicable than we might imagine.
houses overlooking the natural contours of the creek where Both His Highness and I love old maps, those remarkable
dozens of diving boats had been drawn up over time onto the documents that for centuries put aside religious and sectarian
beach to protect them from the breaking waves. The main road differences in the pursuit of knowledge without borders (that
of the town extended between the boats on one side to the evocative phrase again). My own books on the history of maps
other, where there were many one-storied houses all sporting have been at pains to show how early Arabic, Ottoman and
imposing facades (Tale of a City, pp. 54-55). North African mapmakers played their role in the history of
How times have changed! cartography. This includes the mapping of the Gulf, which, as
But Tale of a City is more than just an evocation of times past. His Highness knows from his own research, was often placed
It is also a scrupulously researched record of the rapidly shifting on their maps at the centre of the world! His Highness is a great
political, economic and tribal alliances and divisions between connoisseur of maps, having a collection of some of the finest
Sharjah and Ras al-Khaimah, as they came together and in the world.
separated again during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, His Highness is also the author of many distinguished plays,
culminating in Ras al-Khaimahs eventual reincorporation into and I would enjoy talking to him about my most recent book,
Sharjah in 1921. Woven throughout these complex relations is This Orient Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World,
the story of the British presence in the Gulf, its creation of the and its argument that the Elizabethans, including William
Trucial States and the importance of Sharjah to Britains wider Shakespeare, knew far more about the Islamic world than we
imperial policy. in the West have ever realized. Just as His Highness describes
It is to His Highnesss credit that he is very even-handed in the relations between Sharjah and the British in Tale of a
his account of British interference in Sharjahs political life at this City, so I show how Queen Elizabeth I established close and
time, including his description of the threat of bombardment friendly diplomatic relations with the Ottomans, Safavids and
that was only narrowly averted in 1931. There are no villains in Barbary States. These relations found their way into the plays of
Tale of a City: competing tribal rulers and imperial administrators Shakespeare and his contemporaries.
are all judged with the objective, dispassionate gaze of a scholar The range of His Highnesss publications reflect his
who wishes to provide for posterity the most accurate account cultural as well as political achievements over his long and
possible of the history of his kingdom, and the importance of the distinguished reign.
Gulf within the geopolitics of not just the 19th and early 20th
centuries, but perhaps more importantly, today. Jerry Brotton is Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen
The book ends with the progressive initiative that took place Mary, University of London, and the author of books
in 1932: to define Sharjahs international position in the world; including A History of the World in 12 Maps, This Orient
the agreement between the Sultan and the British Government Isle: Elizabethan England and the Islamic World, and The
for the establishment of the air station that would link England Renaissance Bazaar: From the Silk Road to Michelangelo.
Highlights from the 2017
Sharjah Book Fair Professional Program
by Ed Nawotka, Publishers Weekly

The professional program at this years Sharjah International Amazon Publishing imprint has become the biggest producer
Book Fair, which opens the fair and runs from October 30 to of translated literature in the US market, having published
November 1, once again offers a wide range of programming 300 titles from 36 countries in 21 languages. Page-Fort
offering insight and edification for attendees from the Gulf, acquired 239 of those titles in 19 languages. Her list includes
the rest of the Arabic-speaking world, and those visiting from the 1.5-million-copy-selling Hangmans Daughter series by
further abroad. German writer Oliver Ptzsch and a wide array of award-
Following an opening greeting by Ahmed Al Ameri, winning books from many countries, such as Zygmunt
Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority, well hear from Dutch Miloszewskis crime novel Rage, which won the prestigious
publisher Michiel Kolman, President of the International Paszport Polityki Prize for Literature in Poland; Mariam
Publishers Association, who succeeded to the post on January 1. Petrosyans The Gray House, winner of Russias Big Book Prize;
Kolman is Senior Vice President of Global Academic Relations at and Shion Miuras The Great Passage, which won a Japanese
Elsevier, one of the worlds top scientific, technical and medical Bestsellers Award.
(STM) publishers. He served previously as IPA Vice President. Logistics can be especially daunting in the Gulf, with each
Earlier this year, Kolman underscored IPAs role: These state having its own laws regarding content, importation
are challenging and rapidly changing times in the world of duties, and distribution challenges so attendees will be
publishing, but publishers have consistently shown themselves eager to hear about the Sharjah Publishing City projects
to be highly adaptable, he said. We will need to build on that latest developments. The new 200,000-sq.-ft. facility offers
further to continue to achieve the IPAs objectives, most notably administrative and logistical support for those looking to
the protection of copyright and freedom to publish. publish, print, and distribute books throughout the world
Mondays professional program in Sharjah will also showcase without restrictions. The idea is that you can set up and open
a conversation with a trio of prominent Arabic language writers: for business in as little as 48 hours, says Ahmed Al Ameri.
Lebanons Iman Humaydan, Saudi Arabias Mohammed Hasan The facility is expected to offer everything from warehousing
Alwan, and Egypts Youssef Rakha. Humaydan is one of the to printing, and its convenient location close to Dubai airport
most popular female writers in the Arab world and several of makes it an ideal base for publishers looking to open up
her works have been translated into English, including the new markets in the region, as well as facilitating shipping
novels B as in Beirut and Wild Mulberries. Alwan won the 2017 expeditiously to Asia and Africa.
International Prize for Arabic Fiction for his novel A Small Death, Thus far, publishers from a wide variety of countries and
about the life of Sunni mystic Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi. The novel regions, including the U.S., U.K., China, India, the Middle East,
traces the mystics life from his birth in Spain in 1165 to his death South Korea, and Turkey have committed to taking space in
in Damascus in 1240. A young, peripatetic writer himself, Alwan Sharjah Publishing City, which is all-but sold out. The expectation
said upon winning the prize that it was the nature of the mystics is that 1,500 people will begin working in the facility soon, and
adventurous life and his propensity for travel that drew him to ultimately perhaps as many as 10,000. These will include
the story. Rakha is known for his challenging and experimental editors, translators, printers, accountants, attorneys, and other
style. An English translation of his first novel, The Book of the staff that supports publishing, Al Ameri says. With Sharjah
Sultans Seal: Strange Incidents from History in the City of Publishing City we hope to attract a diverse and dynamic group
Mars, was published by Interlink Books in 2015; The Crocodiles, of publishers to live and work in the U.A.E.
translated by Robin Moger, was published by Seven Stories that Tuesday mornings program features an exciting line-up
same year. Sessions on translations to and from Arabic will round of top executives: Steve Potash, CEO of digital library services
out the program. provider Overdrive; John Ingram, Chairman of the publishing
Furthermore on Monday, Gabriella Page-Fort, services company Ingram Industries Inc.; Mari Bergeron,
AmazonCrossing editor will offer insights into the process Sr. Director of International content licensing EBSCO; and
of literary translation and publishing. In seven years, her Julie Attrill, whos responsible for rights at Wiley in the UK.

SIBF 2017: An Introduction

by Roger Tagholm

This is undoubtedly a fanfare year for the Sharjah International from Arabic to any language (or vice versa), and $50,000
Book Fair. It takes place during the UK-UAE Year of Culture, from any language to a non-Arabic language. This grant
part of which includes the special exhibition of a digital version was established in 2011 and in 2016 the fair received 1200
of the extremely rare Birmingham Quran (see page 9). applications.
Meanwhile, if anyone doubted the emirates commitment Over the years the fair has built an impressive roster
to books and how could they when the Ruler His Highness of visiting authors, among them Arundhati Roy, William
Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed al Qasimi, Member of the Dalrymple, Jeffrey Archer, Cassandra Clare, Peter James,
Supreme Council of the UAE, puts such resources behind Fatima Bhutto and Dan Brown, whose sell-out appearance in
the countrys publishing industry official recognition came 2014 is still talked about. For some writers, it is their first time
with the announcement that Sharjah has been designated in the Emirates and the book fair can rest assured that these
UNESCO World Book Capital 2019. authors return to their native countries spreading positive
As the first Gulf city to receive such an honor given to words about the support books receive in this part of the world.
the best city program aimed at promoting books it will surely The 36th edition of the fair is also taking place in a year
be a talking point in the halls at this years fair. Making the coinciding with the official opening of Sharjah Publishing City,
announcement, UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said: the ambitious publishing free zone that has already attracted
I applaud the nomination of Sharjah as the World Book Capital international publishers wishing to take advantage of the zones
as well as the efforts undertaken by the city in order to make tax advantages, as well as the Emirates strategic location
reading available to as many people as possible, in particular bridging east and west (see pages 10 and 11).
the marginalized as a motor for social inclusion, creativity and Annually, the Sharjah International Book Fair Awards
dialogue. precede the opening of the fair. These are considered the Arabic
Support for reading is a core belief in Sharjah and indeed Oscars and honor both Emirati writers and figures from the wider
its slogan for its tenure as UNESCO World Book Capital will world of books. In 2016, the Lebanese intellectual and academic,
be Read You are in Sharjah. His Highness has long believed Dr. Ghassan Salame, former Lebanese Minister of Culture, was
that books and education are the key to personal development, named Cultural Personality of the Year in recognition of his long
and his governments policies have always championed the and distinguished career and invaluable contribution to the Arab
publishing sector. Schoolchildren are given a day off to visit the cultural scene.
book fair and the sight of so many children pouring through the Dr Salame said of His Highness: You are the one who has
halls (are the girls the noisiest? Discuss) is one of the fairs most allowed Sharjah to become the lighthouse of culture between
familiar and anticipated sights. east and west. You have attained the highest standards of
His Highness believes that it is only through literature that science, knowledge and culture. As a writer and scholar
we learn to see the world through others eyes. The UAEs yourself, you understand the needs of writers and because of
first school and library were established in Sharjah, and the this, you have truly transformed Sharjah into a sustainable city
funding of libraries today is in marked contrast to other parts of culture. You have left the regions youth with a long-standing
of the world, notably the UK. Sharjah is a believer in literature heritage of which they can be proud. No one would challenge
as soft diplomacy, in the power of books to heal division and those words.
if diplomacy on the international stage is about bringing Delegates who have been to the fair before will be familiar
countries together, Sharjah performs admirably. with the 123-metre Sharjah Flagpole that can be seen from
The fairs famous Rights Bazaar, held in the Chamber the palm-lined waterfront Corniche. It is a well-known Sharjah
of Commerce every year, is a little like speed dating, with landmark, much loved by locals. This year it will undoubtedly
international publishers booking short appointments with stand even taller, its colours even brighter and with good
Arabic publishers and making use of Sharjahs generous reason, in this most triumphant of years for the Emirate where
Translation Grants which provide $250,000 for translation books come first.
Reaching Milestones in
Arabic Literary Translation
by Ed Nawotka

In 1966, Al-Tayeb Salihs Season of Migration to the North Hawkins Girl on a Train. Another publisher, notes Rossetti, Dar
was published. The book was one of the first contemporary al Arabi in Cairo, actively seeks out titles to translate from even
novels written in Arabic to travel far beyond its borders, when more exotic locales. It has an eclectic list of Arabic translations,
it was published in English just three years later as part of the ranging from the Chinese hipster novel Running Through
legendary Heinemann African Writers Series. Beijing by Xu Ze Chin to Icelandic dystopian enviro-thriller
On December 18, 1973 the General Assembly of the United LoveStar by Andri Snar Magnason.
Nations approved Arabic as an official UN language, forever When one looks at some recent statistics produced by
marking December 18 as Arabic Language Day. Arabic language online bookseller Neelwafurat, the company
Then in 1988, the Egyptian Naguib Mahfouz was the first estimates that the number of titles per year produced in
Arabic-language writer to win the Nobel Prize. Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
These are all significant milestones. But why, after all this combined which together account for some 80% of book
time and considering that Arabic is the fifth most-spoken production amounts to approximately 17,500 titles annually,
language in the world, is Mahfouz still the only Nobel Prize- so about 15-20% of all books are translations.
winner? Nevertheless, Arabic still ranks 29th on the top 50 list of
Well, it likely has to do with translation. The late Mark Linz, target languages, that is in translation to Arabic, according
director of the American University in Cairo Press, who died to the latest UNESCO Index Translation Statistics. Where it is
in 2013, was instrumental in bringing Mahfouz to English- stronger is in translations from Arabic to other languages: there
language readers for the first time. English, being a gateway it ranks 17th on the list of original language translation.
language, helped bring Mahfouz and scores of other authors Rossetti confirmed this: My impression is that there has
Linz published in translation, to the world. Alas, translation been an increasing awareness of Arabic language authors and
cannot only go in one direction and here lies the problem. far more books coming into English and other languages from
In 2002, Jordanian researcher Dr. Rima Khalaf Hunaidi, Arabic than ever before. I can say that in the United States, over
then director of the Arab regional office in the U.N. the past four or five years, there are also more presses willing to
Development Program, issued a report that studied book publish them.
publishing and other habits among Arabs. She discovered This is leading to recognition as well. In 2017 in the United
that the total number of books translated into Arabic was States, the PEN Translation Prizes counted two Arabic-
typically no more than 330 per year. The report went on to language titles on its longlist: Confessions by Rabee Jaber,
say that the total number of books translated into Arabic (which was also a finalist) published by New Directions,
during the 1,000 years since the age of Caliph Al-Mamun, translated from the Arabic by Kareem James Abu-Zeid and
the ninth-century ruler, was then less than those translated Limbo Beirut by Hilal Chouman, published by the University of
in Spain in one year. This lack of translation was later Texas Press, translated from the Arabic by Anna Ziajka Stanton.
underscored when UNESCO, which has been tracking literary Whats more, the American Literary Translation Association
translations since 1932, said over the thirty-year period from shortlisted No Knives in the Kitchens of This City by Khaled
1979 to 2009, that just 11,500 books were translated into Khalifa, published by American University of Cairo Press and
Arabic from across the world. translated by Leri Price, for its National Translation Award.
Fortunately, just a short time later, those numbers are Other books that have recently captured US readers
woefully outdated, said Chip Rossetti, the managing editor imaginations as well include titles such as The Corpse
of the Library of Arabic Literature translation series at NYU Exhibition, selected as one of PWs ten Best Books of the Year,
Press, which publishes pre-modern Arabic texts in facing-page a dark and inventive story collection of post-2003 US invasion
bilingual English/Arabic editions. The number of projects Iraq by Hassan Blasim, published by Penguin, translated
translating books into Arabic in recent years have been vast by Jonathan Wright, or The Queue by Basma Abdel Aziz, a
and well supported. Many of worlds most important books difficult, dystopian novel depicting events in Egypt post-Arab
have already translated into Arabic or are in the process Spring published by Melville House and translated by
thereof. Elisabeth Jaquette.
And the range of titles being translated gets broader The image of the appeal of Arabic is changing; it is no
every year. Rossetti cites the work of Egyptian-Lebanese longer the dull corner of publishing that it used to be, the
publishing house Dar al-Tanweer which has published Arabic source for the odd one-off novel, said Rossetti. Its now highly
language translations of everything from difficult books, such desirable and the best authors and books are highly sought
as Thomas Pikettys Capital in the Twenty-First Century and after much the same as those from any other language.
works by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, to more commercial fare, Arabic, as a language of contemporary international
such as George R.R. Martins Game of Thrones series and Paula translated literature, has come of age.
Buying and
Selling Rights in Sharjah
by Ed Nawotka

Starting in 2011, the Sharjah Book Authority began language area, Arabic publishers travel personally to every
offering grant support for publishers looking to acquire book fair in the region, so they all tend to know each other
rights while at the Sharjah International Book Fair. The grant well, she said. Knowing some Arabic publishers beforehand
program intends to facilitate cross-cultural exchange and can be very helpful: when I attended the SIBF in 2014 I
offers various levels of funding support to Arab and foreign knew Sherif Bakr from Al Arabi in Egypt, and he was so kind
publishers for the translation of literary works into various to introduce me to several others on the first day, whom
languages. The support is generous, with as much as I all ended up meeting with. This personal introduction
$4,000 available for general titles and $1,500 for childrens was essential for me to get to know this the market and its
books. Overall, the fund supports up to $300,000 of participants better.
grants each year. Chrysothemis Armefti, also of 2 Seas Agency, says,
Before the launch of the grant, the Sharjah Books Because of how the Translation Grant applications are
Authority was translating five or six books from Arabic each contacted, I would advise rights sellers who are visiting for
year. Since its launch, 345 books have been translated the first time not to pitch more than two or three titles per
with the support of the Authority, covering a wide range of meeting. The reason being that any application for a grant
subjects and genres. The largest percentage of books have requires filling in an Expression of Interest Form during
been works for children (44%), followed by fiction (34%) the same session, signed by both parties, and delivered
and nonfiction (17%). Other works translated have included by the end of the day to the SIBF. And also, remember to
young adult books, cookbooks and political works. bring a stack of business cards, as you need to staple them
Last year was the strongest year yet for the program, with on to the applications! In 2016, 2 Seas was able to sell the
767 applications for grants representing a 236% increase Dutch literary fiction title The House of the Mosque by Kader
over the previous year. Of those, 208 have been approved Abdolah to a publisher in Albania; and Arabic rights for an
to date, from a wide range of companies and countries. American business title, Education that Works by Dr. James
Among the many notable publishers winning grants include Stellar, were sold to Arab Nile Group.
Arab Scientific Publishers, Dar Al Adab, Dar Al-Saqi, Al Yasmina Jraissati, founder of the Beirut-based Raya
Arabi Publishing and Distributing, The Ismael Tree, Nepko Literary Agency for Arabic literature, advises, The main
Publishing, Yapi Kredi Kultur Sanat Yayincilik, among others. challenge in both selling and acquiring rights, is that foreign
Sellers included Akashic Books in the United States, the editors lack contextual information to be able to get a good
Brazilian Book Chamber, Atlantyca from Italy, the Elinha answer to ordinary questions like: Who is this author, or this
Ahlback Literary Agency in Finland, Hachette Childrens publisher? Why is this book interesting? They have very few
Group, Gemser Publications from Spain, Peoples Literature tools to get a sense of the landscape. Perhaps the only way
Publishing House of China, and others. is to attend the fair regularly, year after year, to establish
To cite just one example of success, Sheikha Bodour Al continuity. I know this is costly in terms of time investment,
Qasimi, founder of the Sharjah-based Kalimat Group, notes but if anyone is serious about the Arab market, this is truly
that the company was able to strike a significant deal with the only way.
Bloomsbury Publishing UK. Under the agreement, the She notes that it is important to take a minute or two to
companies are exchanging a number of titles for translation tell Arabic publishers exactly the kind of books one likes,
each year, with Kalimat Group publishing books from highlighting not just the topic, but the writing style and
Bloomsburys portfolio of titles translated into Arabic and structure and then, after hearing a pitch, ask detailed
Bloomsbury reciprocating by publishing from Kalimats list questions to be sure youre getting what you want. And
in English, Al Qasimi said. Kalimat also struck an agreement always ask or inquire about books that are not on the for
with Quarto Publishing, for the two companies to form a new sale list, she says. It will help you to get a better feel for the
imprint to publish and distribute Quarto titles throughout the publishers list.
Middle East and North Africa. When sitting on the other side of the table, Jraissati
As for agents and publishers traveling from abroad, says that if a book is not a best-seller, or very specialized,
Sharjah generously sponsors a fellowship program that Arabic translation rights can be more difficult to sell. Only
facilitates introductions to other publishers and rights agents a handful of publishers actively translate fiction into Arabic.
during the Professional Program. The fact that SIBF precisely funds such translations is a great
One agent who has participated is Marleen Seegers, plus, and it widens the horizon. Again, she emphasizes that
founder of Californias 2 Seas Literary Agency. Seegers the more forehand knowledge one has of a publisher and
advises participants to prepare as much as they can in his/her specific market, which can be sensitive to cultural
advance. In spite of the many countries covered by the differences, the better one will be prepared to score a deal.
4th Sharjah International Book Fair/American Library
Association Library Conference set for November 7-9
by Michael Dowling

Now in its 4th year, the Sharjah International Book Fair(SIBF)/ United Arab Emirates, to present a series of programs on
American Library Association (ALA) Library Conference has transformative initiatives taking place in their libraries.
established itself as a major yearly event in the Middle East, Attendees have access to a Librarians Lounge, sponsored
attracting hundreds of librarians from across the region, and by SIBF and library-related companies, for informal networking
beyond, to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). This and information about new products and services. This years
year, ALA President James Neal will be the opening keynote, as conference Platinum sponsors are Ingram Content Group and
the conference continues to focus on the Libraries Transform NexusLib; Gold sponsors are GOBI-EBSCO and Overdrive.
theme. The conference offers librarians from all types of Exhibitors include Alzad; Association for Supervision &
libraries (academic, school, public, and special libraries) the Curriculum Development Publishers; Books Kinokuniya;
chance to learn from international experts from within and Gresswell/Demco Interiors; Human Kinetics Publishers;
outside the region. Knowledge E; and National Science Teachers Assn Publishers.
And with the announcement by UNESCO that Sharjah In addition to the enlightening programs, attendees will
will be the World Book Capital in 2019, the conference learn from each other during the poster sessions featuring
promises to energize and inspire attendees with new ideas 20 case studies across the library spectrum. The 2017 Library
and new connections that will help further the transformation conference will be held in conjunction with the 36th SIBF at
of their libraries. The conference sessions are bi-lingual, with the Sharjah Expo Centre, which runs from November 1-11. The
simultaneous translation in Arabic and English. librarians will be able to combine the conferences professional
On November 7th, librarians will have the opportunity development with discovering and acquiring materials for their
of full-day preconferences, including the in-demand libraries. SIBF is one of the largest book fairs in the world. In
Assessment in Action: Demonstrating and Communicating 2016, there were 1420 publishing houses from 60 countries
Library Contributions to Student Learning and Success exhibiting at SIBF and over 1.5 million books in 210 languages
workshop of the Association of College & Research Libraries on display. Attendance at the Fair exceeds 2 million visitors.
(ACRL). The conference is managed by SIBF, ALAs International
The full two-day conference, November 8-9, features Relations Office, and Combined Book Exhibit (sponsor liaison).
concurrent interactive programs of wide interest, with topics SIBF representatives, including the Sharjah Book Authority
such as top trends, open resources, and innovative thinking Chairman Ahmed Al Ameri, have fostered the partnership by
models, but also specific tracks by type of library. For academic attending and exhibiting at recent ALA conferences to offer
librarians, Dr. Mustafa Abdelwahid, Director of Library, Al-Faisal information and resources to U.S. libraries that showcase
University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, will focus on the integration UAE culture and libraries and help the libraries build related
of library services into the curriculum. ACRLs new information collections of materials.
literacy framework will be a hot topic as will be the concept of Serving librarians and libraries for over 140 years, the
personal librarians on campus. ALA provides leadership for the development, promotion,
Public librarians will be able to learn from their regional and improvement of library and information services and the
colleagues in Tunisia, Egypt, and the UAE about transformative profession of librarianship to enhance learning and ensure
services like online book clubs. Rivkah Sass, Director of the access to information for all. ALA currently has 1,700 members
Sacramento Public Library in California, will provide salient from 93 countries outside of the United States. The content of
approaches to empowering and directing staff; Melanie the SIBF/ALA conference reflects ALAs key action areas and
Huggins, Executive Director of the Richland Library, Columbia, core values, including literacy, education and lifelong learning,
South Carolina, re-envisions the library as a catalyst for solving advocacy for libraries and the profession, diversity, equitable
community problems and creating opportunities for the access to information and library services, transforming
community to learn, create, and share. libraries, excellence and innovation, and expanding library
Library Journal School Librarian of the Year Todd services. For additional information, please contact the ALA
Burelson, Media Specialist at the Hubbard Woods Library International Relations Office at intl@ala.org.
in Winnetka, Illinois, and Wendy Garland, Avery Elementary
School, Dedham, Massachusetts, will join three winners of Michael Dowling is Director of ALAs International
the first-ever School Librarians of the Year Awards in the Relations Office
Ancient manuscript brings The person who actually wrote it could well have known the
Prophet Muhammad. He would probably have seen him and he
Quran Closer would maybe have heard him preach. He may have known him
personally and that is really quite a thought to conjure with.
Fragments of manuscript possibly The Exhibition at this years Book Fair is part of the UK Guest
of Honour Programme, in the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Creative
dating from shortly after the Collaboration between the UK and the UAE. The University
of Birmingham in partnership with the British Council and
founding of Islam will be on display at with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge
Development as strategic partner, presents a digital exhibition
the Sharjah International Book Fair. of the Birmingham Quran manuscript; a piece consisting of two
parchment leaves of the Quran that have been radiocarbon
Roger Tagholm reports dated to the early seventh century, making them one of the
earliest examples of the Islamic holy book in existence.
The manuscripts are part of the Mingana Collection of more
than 3,000 Middle Eastern documents gathered in the 1920s
by Alphonse Mingana, a Catholic priest born in the ancient
kingdom of Chaldea in what is now modern-day Iraq. To read
about their history is to enter a rich, sepia-tinted, late nineteenth/
early twentieth century world of Arabian exploration, a period
when academics and scholars explored the region, making
discoveries that form the core of western collections today.
Mingana settled in the U.K. at the invitation of James
Rendell Harris, an English biblical scholar who was director
of studies at the Society of Friends Woodbroke College in
Selly Oak, Birmingham. Mingana worked at the college for
two years during which time he met Dr Edward Cadbury, the
Quaker owner of the famous Cadbury chocolate factory in
neighbouring Bournville.
Cadbury had an interest in religion and wanted to make
Woodbroke both the intellectual and spiritual heart of the Society
of Friends. In the 1920s he financed three trips that Mingana
made to the Middle East to collect ancient Sryiac and Arabic
manuscripts Minganas excitement at some of his discoveries can
be seen in a letter he wrote to Cadbury on 24 October 1925. Last
It could be one of the oldest Qurans in the world and the week I had acquired 100 Syriac manuscripts. Today, I am in a
person who inscribed its verses may even have known the position to report that I have about 250 manuscripts. This is more
Prophet Muhammad himself. Now a digital version of the than my expectations could dream of. Hallelujah!
Birmingham Quran so-called because an alert PhD student After working at the John Rylands Library in Manchester,
at Birmingham University in the U.K. decided to take a closer cataloging its rare Arabic manuscripts, Mingana moved back
look at fragments of ancient text in the universitys collection to Birmingham in 1932 to focus on cataloging the collection.
of Middle Eastern books and documents is on display at this The first catalogue describing 606 Syriac manuscripts was
years Sharjah International Book Fair. published in 1933.
The importance of these pieces of manuscript cannot be Cadbury named the collection after its first curator and
overstated. They are written on parchment goat or sheep today, the University of Birminghams Mingana collection
skin treated with an alkali solution such as lime, and left to has manuscripts representing more than 20 languages and
dry under tension their author using a reed pen dipped in spanning a period of 4,000 years.
brown pigment. Tests carried out by the Oxford University For many years, the precious Birmingham Qurran
Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit show that, with a probability fragments had been bound alongside leaves of a similar Quran
of more than 95%, they date from between 568 and 645. manuscript in the collection, thought to date from the late
Birmingham University deduces from the handwriting that seventh century. But a PhD research student, Dr. Alba Fedeli,
they may have been created in the Hejaz area to the west of the identified the script as Hijazi, one of the earliest Arabic scripts,
Arabian Peninsula, which includes the Islamic sacred cities of and that led the university to carbon date the fragments.
Mecca and Medina. Muslims and historians are captivated. It is extraordinary
David Thomas, Professor of Christianity and Islam at to think that the person who made these brushstrokes may
Birmingham University, said: [The fragments] could well take have heard the Prophet Muhammad preach. The reaction of
us back to within a few years of the actual founding of Islam. Muhammad Afzal, Chairman of Birmingham Central Mosque,
According to Muslim tradition, the Prophet Muhammad demonstrates how these ancient fragments have reached across
received the revelations that form the Quran, the scripture of the centuries. When I saw these pages I was very moved, he
Islam, between the years 610 and 632, the year of his death. said. There were tears of joy and emotion in my eyes

Sharjah Publishing City

Prepares for formal launch as
international interest builds

Sharjah Publishing City (SPC), the worlds first publishing and

printing free zone, will have a formal launch at the 2017 Sharjah
International Book Fair. Established by His Highness Sheikh Dr.
Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah and a member
of the Federal Supreme Council of the United Arab Emirates,
the City offers tenants the opportunity to capitalize on tax-free
privileges while benefiting from a status as wholly independently
owned and managed companies. Companies setting up in SPC
will enjoy the benefits of operating in an ideally placed publishing
hub, with easy access to the Middle Eastern, African, European and
Asian regions marketplaces.
The city falls under the aegis of the Sharjah Book Authority,
which HH Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi established
in 2013. The Authority also manages the Sharjah International
Book Fair, the Sharjah Childrens Reading Festival, and Sharjah
Public Libraries.

Qua Foto Jeanette Cornelisse

Q&A with
Michiel Kolman, President of the
International Publishers Association

Have you visited the Sharjah International Book Fair before? The second principal issue is that fundamental to
No, 2017 will be my first Sharjah book fair and I am really publishing is having the freedom to disseminate written ideas
looking forward to enjoying the great program and speakers and protect and encourage creators. Freedom to Publish
lined up this year. is one of the core pillars of the IPA and central to much of
what we do. For example, just last week, we awarded the IPA
What do you see as the principal issues for the IPA to handle? Prix Voltaire at the Gothenburg Book Fair, which rewards
The IPA represents publishers around the world that are exemplary courage in upholding the freedom to publish
active in a whole range of publishing areas, from childrens and in enabling others to exercise their right to freedom of
books, literary works to academic and educational works. As expression. We have also been engaged on issues such as the
such there is a wide range of issues that the IPA can cover but imminent trial of Turkish writer Asli Erdoan and many others.
these can be categorized into two main topics.
The first is to recognize that in many cases, during the Tell us about the progress made on copyright issues in
process of providing tools and services to authors, publishers the Middle East.
assume the same risks as writers. Underpinning this In the UAE and across the region there is a clear understanding
relationship is copyright, an indispensable legal instrument that authors and content creators deserve to have their work
that protects the rights of creators and publishers. recognized and protected. This had been demonstrated over
In todays society which is so focused on technology and the past two decades with several countries in the region
online media, publishers remain concerned about piracy and modernizing their copyright and intellectual property protection
its ability to undermine the fundamentals of the publishing frameworks. The UAE in particular has taken significant steps at
industry. Without a good framework for intellectual property protecting copyright and IP. The country is a signatory to WTO-
rights, there is too little investment and innovation, which TRIPS, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, as well as the Berne and Paris
endangers quality publishing. I believe that publishers Conventions. It also passed several laws that largely comply with
should stand as beacons of trustworthiness in an age of fake international standards of IP protection
news and alternative facts and we must as publishers take a In 2004, the government also introduced a Ministerial
leading role in providing trustworthy, reliable information decree which provides the legal foundation for establishing
its the core of what we do and we need a robust copyright collective societies in the country, which gives the UAE the
framework to that. opportunity to create the first RRO in the region.

With all this progress, there are still several challenges publishers bring innovative, unique voices from around the
the UAE face when it comes to protecting copyright. world to market. This initiative will not only nurture the growth
Enforcement is really where several of the countries in the of domestic companies to compete on a world stage, but will
region struggle, particularly as it relates to new forms of digital also enable publishers to benefit fully from the globalization
content. The regulatory environment could also benefit of the industry. It will also help Sharjah capitalize on interest
from expanding provisions to address on-line copyright from global and regional publishers in the UAE not just as a
infringements, and extending the length of protection that sales destination but as a more permanent operational base
copyright laws provide. to access emerging publishing markets.
Sharjah being named UNESCO World Book Capital 2019
Free speech is another sensitive issue. What will be your is testament to the pride Sharjah takes in its cultural industries
message to your audience in Sharjah? and innovations like Sharjah Publishing City to develop the UAE
Upholding freedom to publish ensures diversity of sources as a global publishing hub. Sharjah Publishing City provides a
of knowledge and provides access to information that is compelling value proposition for global publishers by:
essential for cultural diversity, creativity, prosperity, tolerance, Enhancing access to manuscripts, translators and editors
and social development. Unfortunately, several countries in Providing state-of-the-art infrastructure, printing, and
the Middle East face important challenges when it comes to logistics facilities
freedom of expression. In the UAE, there have been several Providing access to the Middle Easts largest book
initiatives to promote freedom of expression and freedom to distribution company and regional marketing and sales
publish, such as the prioritization of freedom of expression support
in the work of the UAE National Commission for Education, Reducing the cost of key publishing inputs, such as paper,
Culture and Science. to promote cost efficiencies that will reduce the cost of
We at the IPA believe in a dialogue-based approach to book production
engaging countries and member associations where these Providing access to capacity-building programs and local
challenges are more apparent. We aim to give voice to and regional grants and awards programs
publishers and publishers associations around the world to Sharjah Publishing City aims to become the regional
help them advocate for change, although there is no one- operating base for 400 publishers by November 2017.
size-fits-all approach to effectively engage with countries on
highly contextual issues like freedom to publish. Elsevier is often portrayed as the corporate villain by
Our member, the Emirates Publishers Association has advocates of open academic publishing. How do you
been active in supporting member associations in the region respond to such attacks?
to promote dialogue and lobby for change. Some recent Allow me to address this as IPA President. The widespread
activities include: model in the publishing world is where the readers pays
Participating in a panel as part of the 3rd Arab Publishers (often directly, sometimes by viewing advertisement, etc.).
Association Conference which openly discussed the A model where the author pays is highly exceptional and
limitations on the freedom to publish and freedom of seems only to be embraced in the world of academic
expression in the region, and affirmed that these freedoms publishing. As such in STM publishing you have mixed
are basic human rights. business models. On one hand you have clear leaders
Working with the Saudi Publishers Association to help fine- like PLoS and eLife that publish high quality open access
tune its approach to addressing freedom to publish issues journals which follow the author pay model. On the other
which culminated in the creation of a freedom to publish hand, you have players like SpringerNature and Elsevier
committee by the Association that offer both the subscription model (where the
Issuing public statements condemning freedom to publish reader pays) and the author pays model. The surprising
issues in countries like Turkey and Mauritania development is that both Elsevier and SpringerNature are
now open access powerhouses and have done so without
How do you view the development of Sharjah compromising quality.
Publishing City? Elsevier continues to support open access and this has
The UAE has transitioned from being a country with a small been reinforced with the exciting recent acquisitions such as
domestic publishing industry to becoming a regional publishing SSRN and Bepress. These online platforms help the scientific
hub in a very short time. With the announcement of the creation community to collaborate and share their research, often in
of the worlds first free zone dedicated for the publishing open ways and are examples of great innovative solutions that
industry, Sharjah has become a global publishing industry hub. are being developed within the STM industry.
Given its geographic location and services, Sharjah
Publishing City will play a strong role in helping emergent More info: https://www.elsevier.com/about/open-science
Country of Honourthe UK

The UK is the designated Country of Honour for the Sharjah Commenting on the Birmingham Quran exhibition,
International Book Fair (SIBF) 2017, as part of UK/UAE 2017, University of Birmingham Vice-Chancellor Professor
a bilateral year of creative collaboration between the United Sir David Eastwood said: The Birmingham Quran manuscript
Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates. is of huge significance to Muslim heritage and the academic
Country of Honour will showcase excellence in study of Islam. We are immensely proud to host such a treasure
contemporary British publishing, brands, and writing. Among at the University of Birmingham.
the highlights of the programme will be a display of the By bringing this interactive digital exhibition to the
Birmingham Quran manuscript, which is a considered a global UAE for the first time, we are privileged to offer an opportunity
treasure and is currently held at the University of Birminghams for people to celebrate this holy work. Together with the
Cadbury Research Library (see page 9). development of our campus in Dubai, this exhibition
The Department for International Trade (DIT) London Region, symbolizes the Universitys deep commitment to working
ERDFs Global Growth Project and the UK Publishers Association with partners in UAE to enhance academic opportunities and
are organizing a stand at the heart of the Book Fair for two cultural understanding.
dedicated trade days. UK publishers attending SIBF will be able Stephen Lotinga, Chief Executive of the UK Publishers
to meet new business partners from the entire Arab region and Association, said: The 2017 Country of Honour will provide a
find new export and translation rights trading opportunities. great platform for UK publishers to visit Sharjah and explore the
The British Council has organized a programme of literary many opportunities the Emirate and its neighbors have to offer.
events highlighting contemporary British writing and with the The PA looks forward to working with its sister organization,
participation of leading authors including Neel Mukherjee the Emirates Publishers Association, to maximize relationships
(see page 20) and Peter Frankopan. and explore partnerships between the UK and UAE publishing
Further initiatives will be presented by The London Book industries.
Fair in association with SIBF on the theme of Book and Brand Jacks Thomas, Director of The London Book Fair, said: We
Britain, an exhibit and content programme that explores are delighted to be working with all our partners to celebrate
the enduring value and flexibility of British brandsfrom the the UK as Country of Honour at the Sharjah International Book
Monarchy to Matilda and other Roald Dahl properties, and Fair. I am particularly proud to be bringing great British brands
from Enid Blyton to Ian Fleming and to William Shakespeare, in to Sharjah.
all formats. Authors Kate Williams and Claudia Joseph will take Jim James, Senior International Trade Adviser of DIT
part in the events. (UK), said: The UK has a long-standing and warm relationship
Ahmed Al Ameri, Chairman of the Sharjah Book Authority, with the UAE which has been an important trading partner
said: This is the first time that we have had a Country of for many years. Exports to the UAE are worth over 37million
Honour at the Sharjah International Book Fair and this is a to the UK and we look forward to further enhancing the ties
further strengthening of the bond between our two countries. between our two countries.
We look forward to a fruitful cultural exchange, in particular UK/UAE 2017 is a year of creative collaboration
with British authors coming to Sharjah. and cultural exchange between the United Kingdom and the
Cortina Butler, Director of Literature at the British Council, United Arab Emirates, organized by the British Council, the
said: UK/UAE 2017 will provide an exceptional opportunity UKs international organization for education and culture,
for cultural exchange between UAE and the UK and we are under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al
delighted that one of the highlights will be the Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme
UK Country of Honour appearance at the Sharjah International Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and HRH The Prince of
Book Fair. Sharjah has always stressed the importance of books Wales. The purpose of UK/UAE 2017 is to celebrate the long-
and literacy and the Fair is a wonderful platform for us to share standing relationship between the UK and the UAE, giving it
the best of UK literature with the people of the Emirates. greater focus, depth and contemporary relevance.
Hachette Antoine : Publishing and Bookselling in the Lebanon
by Roger Tagholm

Sharjah is one of the most important and most joyful book universities and schools. The company is a respected survivor.
fairs we attend, says Emile Tyan, CEO and General Manager In 1975-76, during the Lebanese civil war, there was a fire and
of Hachette Antoine, the unusual joint venture equally looting at its three stores in central Beirut and the head office
owned by publisher Hachette Livre in France and Lebanese was moved out of the city.
bookseller and publisher Librarie Antoine. Tyan says that as Business today is tough, according to Tyan, though there
a publisher and bookseller the fair is invaluable because we are reasons for optimism too. Physical books are fine we
see how our new titles are appreciated by the public; we see have maintained the same level of sales, though some
if our marketing is working we see all our customers, our reference areas have been hit. But for novels and childrens
distributors around the Arab world; everyone is there. And books we dont have problems.
it is joyful because it is so well-organised and we deal with However the [geopolitical] situation in Arab countries
people who speak straight. doesnt help. We used to have a lot of people from the Gulf
Hachette Antoine was established in 2010, bringing who loved to come to our bookstores they were very good
together one of Lebanons oldest and most distinguished customers, but they are not traveling to Lebanon anymore
booksellers, Librarie Antoine, and the giant global because of security issues and political reasons.
Hachette empire. But Tyan stresses that the company is The competition that physical books face from ebooks
totally independent of Librarie Antoine and Hachette, is an issue too, though Tyan notes that Amazon is not yet a
with its own agenda, its own separate business. He adds threat. Digital books in Lebanon are still a very small market
that the joint venture came about because Hachette we dont have Amazon and we dont have the iBookstore
wanted to be present in all the big markets, and at the time because Arabic is not yet available.
they did not have a presence in the Arab World, Russia or Our prime concern is real estate. The cost of real estate
China. So they invested in these three regions. Its aim is to is very high. Bookstores need a lot of space. If we dont have a
be one of the leading publishers in the Arab World for trade special rate, Im not sure bookstores are sustainable. Yet almost
and school books. in the same breath Tyan notes that the many dark predictions
Hachette Antoine publishes around 200 titles a year, 150 about printed books and bookstores have proved untrue.
of which are trade and the rest educational. It has a number Really I am against all extreme views people have
of childrens licences Disney, Brainquest and Sesame Street said there wont be any printed books, there wont be any
and also translates Arabic childrens titles. It publishes bookstores. I have seen a lot of new products come in and
around 20 novels a year, split between French books bought then go away like CD Roms for example. But we are still
from French publishers, and English titles acquired from selling printed books, and I think that will continue. We just
agents. We would like to introduce Young Adult books in the have to be ingenious and find new solutions, to find new
Arab World they havent really taken off here but first we product.
have to create the demand. On the latter he says the chain opened a new concept
Librarie Antoine was founded in 1933 by Tyans store in Beirut Souks in 2012, which sells more non-book, gift
grandfather, Antoine Naufal. His two brothers, Pierre and gadget items. We were afraid that our customers would
and Emile, joined the business in 1935, and by 1960 they react badly, but they didnt, so we now stock a range of this
had opened three stores. In 1970, Pierre founded Naufal non-book product, Tyan says.
Publishing which published some Arabic titles. Rapid How does he think his grandfather would react coming into
expansion came between 1985 and 2009 when Libairie the stores today? I hope he would be proud that we are still
Antoine opened a number of stores in malls to make it a here. He always said that we dont have to look backward, that
13-strong chain of bookstores. we shouldnt look to the past. He said we should always look
Today it has 15 stores, chiefly in Beirut and its suburbs, forward, always change and adapt and look to the future.
comprising 11 general stores and a number of concessions in A good message for any business.

UNESCO World Book Capital

The nomination as UNESCO World Book Capital further universal respect for justice, for the rule of law and for
2019 is among Sharjahs highest accolades. The honor the human rights and fundamental freedoms.
acknowledges the emirates long-standing commitment to The nomination of Sharjah as UNESCO World Book Capital
books and culture and is undoubtedly a personal triumph follows the city being named UNESCO Cultural Capital of
for the emirates Ruler, His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin the Arab World in 1998, and its year as Islamic Cultural Capital
Mohammed Al Qasimi, member of the UAEs Supreme in 2014, an honour bestowed by the Islamic Educational,
Council, who has worked tirelessly to build a book industry in Scientific and Cultural Organization.
the country since he took office in 1971. Established in 2001, the UNESCO World Book Capital
Sharjahs aim is to use its tenure as UNESCO World Book initiative was first suggested by International Publishers
Capital to increase reading across the emirate and to promote Association (IPA) President Pere Vicens in 1996. Having
books as fundamental to self-improvement. Its slogan for established April 23rd as World Book and Copyright Day in that
the year will be Read You are in Sharjah, and the hope is to year in Madrid, the IPA, inspired by the successful experience
increase book reading across all sectors of society, with plans of Madrid, initiated nominating the best city program aimed at
that include a particular focus on inclusivity, on acknowledging promoting books during the period between one Book Day
and involving Sharjahs rich, multicultural population. and the next.
The organizers are acutely aware that reading and access Following the IPAs idea, and a proposal by the Government
to literature increases empathy and understanding of other of Spain supported by many other countries, the UNESCO
people, and thus reduces conflict. Longer term, it is hoped that General Conference decided, on November 2nd, 2001,
the initiatives put in place for World Book Capital will address that the Organization would grant its moral and intellectual
the worrying statistics from ALECSO (the Arab Leagues support to the conception and implementation of the World
Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organisation) that Book Capital City initiative. It would invite the international
revealed an overall illiteracy rate of 35.6% in the Arab World, professional organizations of the book industry to work
compared with a global rate of 18%. together to see it become a reality.
Sharjahs year as UNESCO World Book Capital will Today, following a public call for entries, the nominating
begin with an Olympic style opening ceremony at the Al committee (formed of the IPA, the International Federation of
Majaz Amphitheatre in Khalid Lagoon, after which the Library Associations and UNESCO) meets in order to appoint a
program will cover six themes: Inclusivity, Reading, Heritage, World Book Capital City.
Outreach, Publishing, and Children. The UAE is home to The city may hold the title for one designated year, from
more than six million expats who account for approximately April 23rd (UNESCO World Book Day) until April 22nd of the
83% of the population. Most are from India (42.3%) or following year. During that year the World Book Capital city
the Philippines (12%), and these two large demographic undertakes to organize and run a large number of events around
groups will be specifically targeted with a range of tailored books, literature and reading. The program brings together the
promotions and events. local and national book industries and puts books and book
The designation UNESCO World Book Capital will enhance culture in the public eye. It attracts sponsorship and extra funding
Sharjahs status as the cultural emirate and will be used to for book related institutions. The program also raises awareness
market the city as a top destination for cultural tourism. Closer for literacy and reading issues, libraries and bookshops, and
to home it is hoped its impact will be felt among the young, with highlights the overall benefits of a lively book culture.
teachers using the title to emphasize the importance of reading There have been 18 World Book Capitals, as follows: Madrid
and as a way of demonstrating Sharjahs status around the (2001); Alexandria (2002); New Delhi (2003); Antwerp (2004);
world when it comes to books. Montreal (2005); Turin (2006); Bogota (2007); Amsterdam
Sharjahs belief in the role books and education have to play (2008); Beiruit (2009); Ljubljana (2010); Buenos Aires (2011);
in boosting empathy and healing division are in accordance Yerevan (2012); Bangkok (2013); Port Harcourt (2014); Incheon
with the aims of UNESCO, as stated in its founding constitution (2015); Wroclaw (2016); Conakry (2017); and Athens (2018).
in 1945 which talks about promoting collaboration among Sharjah becomes the first Gulf city to hold the honor and
the nations through education, science and culture in order to people can hardly wait.
Vikas Swarup is a multi-award winning fiction author and
Indian diplomat. He is currently High Commissioner of
India to Canada and formerly the official spokesperson of
the Ministry of External Affairs of India.
His novel Q&A was adapted into the Oscar-winning
movie Slumdog Millionaire, which won eight Oscarsthe
largest total won by a single film since The Lord of the
Rings: The Return of the King. Critically acclaimed in India
and abroad, this international bestseller has also been
translated into 43 different languages. His other two books
are Six Suspects, which has been optioned for a film, and
The Accidental Apprentice, which has been broadcast as a
BBC Radio Play.

Q&A with
Vikas Swarup

Is this your first visit to Sharjah? it would be made into an Oscar winning film. I thought it was a
Yes. Ive been to Dubai and Abu Dhabi several times but this very Indian book and only readers in India would relate to it.
is the first time I will be visiting Sharjah. Of course I know of But I guess it has appealed to readers across the world because
Sharjah as a unique Emirate which is rich in tradition. I look the themes and the emotions evoked are universal and the
forward to soaking up its rich history and culture, shopping at its underlying message is a simple one - of creating your own luck,
fabulous souks, and visiting its famous museums and galleries. of the underdog beating the odds and winning!
One place in Sharjah known to most Indians is the Sharjah
Cricket Stadium which featured many matches of the Indian The film Slumdog Millionaire was a huge success, but did
cricket team in the 1980s and 1990s! not stick entirely to the plot of your novel. Were you happy
to see the filmmakers produce their own version?
What are you hoping to gain from the visit? On the whole, I am satisfied with the film. It is a riveting piece of
First and foremost I hope to interact with my readers in cinema with some amazing cinematography, great music and
the UAE. I also use my participation in literary festivals to a fabulous cast. It does differ from my novel in some significant
help promote the book reading habit. In todays world, ways but it also preserves the soul of my novel and borrows
unfortunately, the image is drowning out the word and it is the entire narrative structure. My book was about survival and
important for children to know that only through reading can hope and the triumph of the underdog and the same things
one learn to write. can be said about the film. Many of the characters in the film
are also from the book. But I was sorry to see that the multi-
How do you combine the roles of writer and diplomat? dimensional Ram Mohammad Thomas had morphed into the
I call myself a diplomat who writes. For me, work comes first and one-dimensional Jamal Malik.
writing comes second. Unlike other writers with day jobs who
are able to write in the crevices of the day, I can only write when Did you ever feel that the fame of the film was eclipsing the
I have a clear horizon in front of me, meaning several hours original novel?
without any interruptions. So I usually write on weekends and I think the novel stands on its own. It had been translated into
holidays. I try to strike a balance between my life as a writer and 36 languages much before the film came out (now it has been
my role as a diplomat. translated into 43). What the success of the film has done is to
take the novel to a different level and bring me a whole new
Had fiction been a long-held ambition when you readership.
wrote Q&A?
I am an accidental writer. I never thought I would be a novelist Both Q&A and your third novel, The Accidental Apprentice,
and did not write a word of fiction for almost fifteen years after are about ordinary people to whom the extraordinary
my graduation. It was only when I was posted in London that I happens. Is this a theme of particular interest to you?
was inspired to try my hand at fiction, motivated by some of my I think it is a universal theme. Isnt it a secret fantasy for most
contemporaries in the Foreign Service who had written novels. people to imagine what would happen to them if they won a
And believe it or not, I wrote this novel in the last two months of lottery or suddenly got discovered as a model or a film star?
my diplomatic posting in London in 2003. As you know, I prefer to write what I call social thrillers. I am
When I wrote Q&A, I had no idea that it would find a world- naturally attracted to this theme because of the scope it offers
wide readership, with translations now in 43 languages, or that for drama and intrigue.
Lisa Genova graduated valedictorian, summa cum laude, Phi Beta
Kappa from Bates College with a degree in Biopsychology, and has
a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Harvard University. Acclaimed as the
Oliver Sacks of fiction and the Michael Crichton of brain science, she
is the author of the New York Times bestselling novels Still Alice, Left
Neglected, Love Anthony, and Inside the OBriens.
Lisas writing focuses on people living with neurological diseases
and disorders who tend to be ignored, feared, or misunderstood,
portrayed within a narrative that is accessible to the general public.
Still Alice was adapted into a film starring Julianne Moore, Alec
Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, and Hunter Parrish. Julianne
Moore won the 2015 Best Actress Oscar for her role as Alice Howland.
Lisas 2017 TED talk, What You Can Do To Prevent Alzheimers, was
seen by almost 2 million viewers in its first three months. Her fifth novel,
Every Note Played, is about ALS and will be published in early 2018.

Q&A with
Lisa Genova

Is this your first visit to Sharjah? Alice in a drawer and going back to neuroscience research and
Yes. consulting, or giving my novel a chance in the world. I took a
chance and self-published it. I sold copies out of the trunk of
What are you hoping to gain from the visit? my car for almost a year before I found a literary agent who
Im excited about the opportunity to connect with readers then sold it to Simon & Schuster.
from different cultures. Im also honoured to participate in
this fair, to be part of a grand effort to improve awareness and What was your experience of self-publishing?
appreciation for the written word and different points of view. It was hard work for little pay with no guarantee of success. I
wasnt feeding my family as a self-published author. Publishing
Youre a neuroscientist: what made you want to write about with Simon & Schuster is a much better experience.
Alzheimers in your novel Still Alice?
My grandmother had Alzheimers disease. While I could How was the experience of seeing your novel adapted for
understand her disease as a neuroscientist, I couldnt the screen?
understand it as a granddaughter. Everything I read was from It was surreal and amazing! They did a magnificent job. Im
the perspective of an outsiderbooks and papers by clinicians, forever proud of and grateful to everyone involved for creating
scientists, social workers, and caregivers. But what did it feel such a beautiful and important film.
like to have this disease from my grandmothers perspective?
She lacked the awareness and communication skills due to the You have explored other aspects of mental impairment
disease to answer this question. - including autism and Huntingtons Disease - in further
Why is this question important? I believe empathy is the novels. Is fiction for you a way of promoting awareness, or of
key to compassionate awareness and staying connected. I had telling a story, or both of these things?
great sympathy for all of us. I felt heartbroken and bad for all of My writing focuses on people living with neurological diseases
us. But I didnt know how to feel WITH her. This is when I had and disorders who tend to be ignored, feared, or misunderstood,
the AHA moment. Fiction is the place where we can walk in portrayed within a narrative that is accessible to the general public.
someone elses shoes. Story is where we can explore empathy. Most people arent going to read about Alzheimers in the Journal
It was then that I dreamed of writing a novel about a woman of Neuroscience. But they might read a novel about a woman
with Alzheimers and telling it from her point of view. This was with Alzheimers. Through fiction, Im dedicated to describing
the seed for Still Alice. with passion and accuracy the journeys of those affected by
neurological diseases, thereby educating, demystifying, and
Why did you decide to self-publish Still Alice? inspiring support for care and scientific research.
I never wanted to self-publish my novel. I tried going the I think Still Alice has facilitated a global conversation about
traditional route for almost a year. In the US, you need a Alzheimers, a disease that has long been too frightening and
literary agent to represent you and your book, and that literary has carried too much stigma to talk about. That conversation
agent then finds a publishing house to publish your book. So is lifting the stigma, bringing people back into community,
I sent query letters to 100 literary agents. No one wanted to raising compassionate awareness and funding for research and
represent it. I was left with the choice of either sticking Still resources for care.
Mohammed Hasan Alwan won the 2017 International
Prize for Arabic Fiction for his novel A Small Death. He
has previously been shortlisted for the award, with his
novel Al-Qundus, with which he won the 2015 Arab
World Institutes Prix de la Littrature Arabe. In 2009-
10, Alwan was chosen as one of the 39 best Arab authors
under the age of 40 by the Beirut39 project.
Born in Riyadh, Alwan studied Computer Information
Systems at King Saud University. He obtained an MBA
from the University of Portland, Oregon in 2008, and a
Ph.D from Carleton University, Ottawa in 2016.

Q&A with
Mohammed Asan Alwan

Is this your first visit to the Sharjah International Book Fair? milestones? fears? love life? family issues? All of these aspects
No, this is my second. My first one was in 2013 after my fourth of his life were mostly absent from history books. I wanted to fill
novel, The Beaver, was shortlisted for the international prize this gap with fiction. The reaction to the book was in line with
for Arabic fiction (Arabic Booker). I was featured in one of the my intention, and many readers echoed that in their comments,
events and enjoyed meeting a terrific audience. despite their initial opinion about him.

What are you hoping to gain from the visit? In part, the prize aims to encourage English translations. Is
SIBF is one of the most important cultural events in the Arab one in the pipeline?
world. Being there is always a source of joy for me. I hope to There are efforts underway to get that done. A translator was
attend as many literary events as possible and meet the writers commissioned to translate a sample of the book to include it in
whose works I enjoy reading. my communication with interested publishers.

This year, you won the $50,000 International Prize for You live for a good part of each year in Toronto. How has
Arabic Fiction. What has been the impact of winning the your exile affected your writing about your heritage and
award? culture?
The impact on my personal life was simple and direct: writing I am not in exile. I enjoy living between Saudi and Canada.
should be my full time job from now on. I am doing that now, Traveling and living abroad keeps the mind active and
especially after finishing my PhD. observant. This is important to me as a writer.

The subject of your winning novel, A Small Death, is Sunni You have a BA in computing and a PhD in marketingnot
scholar Muhyiddin Ibn Arabi (1165-1240). What drew you a traditional education for a novelist. Was fiction writing
to him? always part of your plans?
There are many sides of Ibn Arabis life that could arouse interest. Part of my academic path was chosen because I didnt believe
In my case, I was mainly obsessed by his travels. It is not that he that writing could be a financially stable job. However, I like
was just a constant traveler, but that he couples his travels with what I have studied. I believe that any kind of knowledge can
philosophical views that are hard to resist. When I was learning be relevant to my writing if I know how to deploy it.
about the tens of cities he had been to, I asked myself: what did
he see? imagining an answer led to writing my novel.

He is a controversial figure in some quarters. How did you

want readers to react to him, and what has been the reaction
to your novel in the Arab world?
I wanted to project his life as a human being, not a holy figure
or a controversial subject. My novel tells his story from a
very personal prospective. What kind of a life did he live? his
Neel Mukherjee made his fiction debut with Past Continuous, which
won the Vodafone-Crossword Book Award in 2008; it was shortlisted
for the DSC South Asian book award, and in the UK won the Writers
Guild award for fiction. His second novel, The Lives of Others, was
shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize and won the Encore Award.
His most recent novel is A State of Freedom, in which five characters
- among them a domestic cook in Mumbai, a vagrant and his dancing
bear, and a girl who escapes terror in her home village for a new life in
the city - experience displacement and migration.
Mukherjee was educated in Kolkata, studied English at Jadavpur
University, and attended University College, Oxford, on a Rhodes
Scholarship. He completed his Ph.D. at Pembroke College, Cambridge,
Nick Tucker

and graduated with an M.A. in creative writing from the University of

East Anglia in 2001. He reviews fiction for papers including The Times
and Time Asia.

Q&A with
Neel Mukherjee

Is this your first visit to Sharjah? then writing about them is middle-class navel-gazing; a
Yes. lose-lose situation in these days where identity politics has
infected literature too. The overcoming of distance that you
What are you hoping to gain from the visit? so rightly point out as the domain of fiction is a matter for the
I dont know. Im waiting to find out. imagination.

How often do you go back to India? How do you find the The novel is a series of intricately linked stories. Why did you
experience of revisiting the country? choose this structure, and was it hard to manage?
Once a year when I let people I know in India know that Im I see it as a novel with all the connective tissue taken out, or one
going, and several times, secretly, on work/research visits. that coheres not by the standard elements of plot or character
but by other means. Or you could see it as an experiment in
In your most recent novel, A State of Freedom, one of the sabotaging the realist novel from within, while keeping the
characters finds himself a tourist in his own country. Have surface effects of realism intact. As for the structure, it owes a
you felt like that? Might it be a good thing for a writer to be very big debt to V.S. Naipauls 1971 novel, In A Free State. It was
of a country but outside it? a great pleasure to manage the structure, but maybe thats
Yes, of course, Ive often felt like a tourist in India. I believe that hindsight speaking
a writer should not be at home anywhere, least of all in the
country that s/he calls home. I call London home now and You have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and
I dont think Ill write about it until I leave the city and move have won the Encore Award. The writer Amit Chaudhuri
elsewhere. Writers should become insiders temporarily only to recently wrote sceptically about the Booker and about the
listen, watch, eavesdrop, note, then they must exit quickly to effect of prize culture on literature. What is your opinion
the outside. The outside is the writers true element, as water is about this?
to the fish. Whoaaaah, I have just read Amits piece!
He makes some very important points. I hope it sets off a
Is fiction nevertheless a way of overcoming this distance, of serious, long-running debate in the literary world but Im not
engaging with others, as you do with your character Milly, holding my breath.
who from a very young age endures a kind of slavery?
Belonging and engagement/empathy are different things. Neel Mukherjees participation in the authors program has
Certainly a writer is not allowed to forget the difference by been made possible by the British Council and forms part
the chattering sphere: if s/hes not one of the have-nots, of the UK/UAE 2017 Year of Creative Collaboration and the
then writing about them is either research-based, or always UK Guest of Honor program at the Sharjah International
already a failure, but if the writer belongs to the class of haves, Book Fair.