The UAE once again has a healthy presence at the world’s biggest literary event
Ruler of Sharjah launches his new historical novel at Frankfurt Book Fair
Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the ruler of Sharjah, has returned to the Frankfurt International Book Fair to launch his latest work, Baby Fatima and the King’s Sons, a historical tale that follows an ambitious young woman living in the last throes of the Portuguese occupation of the Kingdom of Hormuz.
Split into three parts – Hormuz, King Forugh Shah and Prince Firoz Shah – Sheikh Sultan said that the novel aimed to provide an insight into a turbulent period, with an expansive cast of characters ranging from royalty to those living on society’s margins.
The novel’s leisurely prose disguises the fact it was written under a tight deadline. Sheikh Sultan says he wrote the novel in six weeks, which were filled with painstaking research and intensive writing sessions. The end result, he explains, was well worth the effort.
“It wasn’t long ago that I first saw the printed copies of the book,” he says. “In spite of the fact that novels require arduous efforts to write and finish, their creators are elated when they see that the final product is based on facts and experiences that every reader who picks up the book will be able to learn from and enjoy.”
His book launch is part of the UAE’s involvement in the world’s biggest book fair. The five-day event is set to host more than 7,000 exhibitors from at least 100 countries, and will welcome more than 280,000 visitors.
Once again, the UAE is playing an active role in the event by hosting a number of pavilions, all side-by-side in Hall 5 of the Frankfurt Trade Fair grounds. The biggest is the spacious white and orange Sharjah Book Authority pavilion, which hosts a lecture stand, television screens advertising its initiatives and a series of tables for business meetings. The space is flanked by stands belonging to the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation from Dubai, as well as Sharjah’s Emirates Publishers Association.
All of these stations were visited by Sheikh Sultan last week. He inspected the initiatives each organisation had as part of the event. Sharjah Book Authority’s dozen-strong team have been meeting authors and publishers as part of their final preparations for the Sharjah International Book Fair, which runs from October 31 to November 10.
“We’ve already had a few meetings with publishers from various countries – particularly those from Africa, such as Ghana and Kenya, who will take part in the Sharjah Book Fair for the first time,” explains Faisal Al Naboodah, who looks after the fair’s publishing programme. “A lot of them have never visited the UAE before, so in a way, they do need some special attention and we try to ensure they have a great time and make the most out of their experiences.”
Meanwhile, the Emirates Publishers Association – the body representing many of the UAE’s publishing houses – also has an active programme in Frankfurt.
It hosted a “match-making” function on Friday, which paired Emirati publishing houses with counterparts from Brazil – an initiative born out of Sharjah Book Fair’s involvement as the guest of honour at the Sao Paulo Book Fair in August.
“Brazil is a very big market, and these sessions are about buying and selling copyright and translations of works from the UAE to Brazilian publishers and vice versa,” explains spokesperson Mariam Al Obaidli. “We have more than 10 UAE publishers taking part, and we are very happy about that.”
Despite the emirate’s heavy presence at the Frankfurt International Book Fair, which also includes representatives from Sharjah Publishing City, all of the bodies are united in the aim of representing the literature scene of not only the UAE, but the wider region in general. “This is one of the important things that Sheikh Sultan has encouraged us to do,” Al Naboodah says.
“It is not just about encouraging the Emirati entities, but all of the Arab organisations participating here. They are all happy to see, meet and hear him talk about the importance of books, and what we are all doing at home and abroad.”