The world’s biggest book fair returns for another bumper edition featuring a line-up of the UAE cultural organisations
UAE organisations describe their goals at Frankfurt Book Fair
Frankfurt Book Fair - the world’s largest trade fair for books - began yesterday, attended by another impressive contingent from Sharjah International Book Fair.
Discussions, however, began on Tuesday, when Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, hosted a gala dinner at the Palais Frankfurt. Guests included the Polish geologist Jan Zalasiewicz, who wrote the acclaimed The Planet in a Pebble, and British author Michael Carr, renowned for his 2009 non-fiction release Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain. The evening set the stage for five days of industry meetings and deal-making at the Trade Fair Grounds.
Sharjah Book Authority occupied a spacious white and orange pavilion while the UAE’s publishing industry was also represented by Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism Authority, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid’s Knowledge Fund, and the Emirates Publishers Association. All four bodies had their own stands and were handily clustered together in Hall 5 of the huge site.
The timing of the world’s biggest book fair means the organisations have set various goals for their attendance. For the Sharjah Book Authority, the German excursion aims to finalise certain aspects of the emirate’s upcoming book fair, which runs from November 1 to 11 at the Sharjah Expo.
The authority has announced the emirate is to launch Sharjah Publishing City, an exclusive free zone to act as a hub for global publishing houses, and so the delegation will discuss the merits of this initiative in sessions and discussions with industry representatives at the fair.
“Everybody important in the publishing industry comes to Frankfurt,” says Saif Al Naboodah, who is responsible for the professional stream – dedicated to publishers – at the Sharjah Book Fair.
“We come here to not only show what we do in Sharjah, and the range of programmes and initiatives we have going on, but we also meet with authors and publishers who are interested in the book fair and what we have achieved.”
The Sharjah Book Fair has announced the writers attending its forthcoming edition, who will include 2013 International Prize for Arabic Fiction winner, Kuwaiti Saud Alsanousi, British historian Peter Frankopan and Pakistani cricketer Wasim Akram, but Al Naboodah says the Frankfurt event presents an opportunity to finalise aspects of the programme.
“In terms of the authors attending and the publishers who will be exhibiting, that is all completed,” he says.
“However there is still some room – well up to a certain date – that we can accept publishers who want to get involved in the professional programme, where they can discuss the challenges affecting them. This is where I can explain to them what is on offer and, a lot of the time, they are convinced to come.”
When it comes to the Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism Authority, the Frankfurt Book Fair is an ideal event to encourage publishing houses and international authors to nominate their books for the upcoming prestigious Sheikh Zayed Book Award, the winners of which will be revealed at the next edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which returns on April 25.
Yesterday, the authority launched its own series of talks examining pertinent issues facing both the UAE and the regional publishing industry.
For her opening session, Emirati librarian and educator Sheikha Al Muhairi discussed the state of the Arab literary world. The one-hour seminar was based on research she undertook on the industry over a year. “What surprised me during the study is that in the UAE we are not behind international countries when it comes to our publishing abilities,” she said.
“We might miss a few things, but they’re in an area that I would call the ‘soft skills’ as opposed to the ‘hard skills’, which are the infrastructure from digital, design, storage, printing and capital.”
Al Muhairi described soft skills as the creative talent needed to promote the importance of the book industry.
“And this is not just for the UAE but a Pan-Arab challenge,” she said. “The main problem is there is no information about information – by that I mean a strong number of literary critics and key organisations to talk about the new Arabic titles that are out.
“This will take some time as journalists I find don’t want to be critics.
“They tell me they don’t want to be viewed as a villain. There has been some honour lost in this important job.”
The Abu Dhabi Culture and Tourism Authority will organise more seminars this weekend, including sessions on tackling book piracy in the Arab world and the challenges and quirks of translating text from German to Arabic.
Frankfurt Book Fair ends on Sunday