x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

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This November's Sharjah International Book Fair promises to be bigger and better. The star this edition would arguably be Jeffrey Archer.

Jeffrey Archer.
Jeffrey Archer.

The 32nd edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair promises to be bigger and better than past years. Come November 6, Sharjah will see the biggest authors, poets, celebrity chefs and even film stars participate in panel discussions, book readings and workshops for 10 days. The best part, of course, is that all sessions are free.

When it comes to number crunching, it is mind boggling, as this year’s edition has 53 countries and 1,010 local and global publishing house as participants, offering 405,000 books in a wide range of languages and fields.

The star this year would arguably be Jeffrey Archer. Hear the author of bestsellers such as Kane and Abel, The Fourth Estate and The Sins of the Father talk on life, writing and his latest work on November 6 at 6pm at the Sharjah Expo Centre. The other crowd-puller is the popular former Indian president A P J Abdul Kalam. Kalam, who played a key role in developing India’s missile system, has written several books such as Ignited Minds and Wings of Fire, motivating children to dream big. He will address readers on the night of November 7. He will also be part of a seminar the same morning titled The Birth of an Author in You, where he will speak along with noted names such as Marcus Sedgwick, Rana Dasgupta, Alice LaPlante, Vikram Chandra and Ravi Deecee.

Lebanon is dubbed as the guest of honour at this year’s book fair. “We have chosen the Republic of Lebanon in recognition of its significant role in promoting and supporting Arab culture,” Ahmed Al Ameri, the director of the Sharjah International Book Fair, said at a press conference.

“This honour is a result of the pioneering and exceptional role played by Lebanon in the Arab world in the fields of intellect, culture and written word,” said the consul general of Lebanon, Sami Nmeir, in his address.

For literature enthusiasts from the Arab world, it can’t get better than Dr Alaa Al Aswany, a fearless advocate for democratic reform in Egypt and the author of the best-selling The Yacoubian Building. He will read from his book on November 7 at 6pm.

Another interesting session is a one-on-one with the Sudanese English writer Leila Aboulela, whose latest novel Lyrics Alley was the Fiction Winner of the Scottish Book Awards.

Arab literature will also feature prominently in sessions such as Arabic Novel Narration and Architecture, Biography Novels in the UAE and New Writings from the UAE that will see the likes of Dr Haitham Al Khawaja, the Lebanese novelist Hoda Barakat and Khalid Al Jabri share their experiences and views.

Not to be missed is the forum The Action/Thriller Novel on November 14 at 8.30pm. Learn how good thriller plots are written from the acclaimed Steve Berry of the The Amber Room and The Romanov Prophecy fame, along with Ed Chatterton, the author of the psychological thriller A Dark Place to Die.

This year, the book fair has some interesting poetry sessions, too, with Sheikha Al Mutairi, the Palestinian poet Ibrahim Nasrallah, Zahi Wehbe and Habib Al Sayegh reading their works.

According to Al Ameri: “The main attraction is that West meets East at the Sharjah International Book Fair. Sharjah is becoming the hub of books and the main achievement of His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, is that he has made it one of the main book fairs of the world.”

India, as always, has a huge representation at the book fair. The Indian Pavilion, along with DC Books, is bringing the subcontinent’s current best-selling author Ravinder Singh of I Too Had a Love Story fame, the Solo author Rana Dasgupta and the actress-turned-author Deepti Naval, among a host of others.

Of interest to the large Malayali expat community in the UAE is the seminar Celebrating the Proud Status of Malayalam as a Classical Language, which will bring together literary giants from Kerala such as O N V Kurup, Kavalam Narayana Panicker, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Sugathakumari and K Jayakumar.

Literature apart, the book fair promises some fun cookery corners with the celebrity chefs Sanjeev Kapoor, Sally Butcher and Jamshid Golshan Ebrahimi.

And wondering what your kids will do? Take them to a talk by the acclaimed children’s author Ruskin Bond or just send them off to a horde of activities such as spectacular science shows or story telling sessions.

• For detailed listings, visit www.sharjahbookfair.com