x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

'World's tiniest books' at Abu Dhabi fair

Packing up and heading off was a lot easier for Luis Pereyra, a stallholder at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair that ended yesterday.

From left, Jaci, Troy and Amaya Garrick look at some of the world's tiniest books on the last day of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair yesterday.
From left, Jaci, Troy and Amaya Garrick look at some of the world's tiniest books on the last day of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair yesterday.

ABU DHABI // The exhibitor of the "world's tiniest books" smiled as other sellers shoved and huffed while putting their unsold volumes into boxes.

When it came to packing up on the last day of the 22nd Abu Dhabi International Book Fair yesterday, size mattered.

"I can fit the remaining 400 books or so into one box," said Luis Pereyra of Peru, holding 10 of them in the palm of one hand.

Los Libros Mas Pequenos del Mundo, Spanish for the world's smallest books, has been making tiny books by hand since 1970.

Some are the size of just one section of a digit. Others are the size of a thumb. The largest is the unwieldy size of a full index finger.

The colourful publications range from novels, to fairy tales, to "empowerment" books.

"You can start your day by pulling out one of our wisdom books that have inspirational sayings from your pocket or your wallet," Mr Pereyra said. "They fit everywhere."

Already selling small books in Spanish, English, French and Italian, the company is considering tiny Arabic books.

"The owner who created this company used to hand-make all his books and give them away as gifts, so we shall see if giving away tiny books would work as gifts in the Middle East," Mr Pereyra said.

He was among 904 exhibitors from 54 countries - up 10 per cent from last year - with Arabic books making up most of the exhibitions. More than two thirds of the exhibitors came from Arab countries.

The six-day fair, organised by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, took place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre in the capital.

Every stall was of a different character. Some had TVs yelling out "kite" and "shark". Others had puzzles and toys as gifts to go with the books. Sellers from across the world chatted in their native languages.

The most frequent complaint from book sellers was the timing of the book fair.

"Schools are on a break and so we haven't had many children or students come," said Mohammed Ahmed, a bookseller from Lebanon. "That has been the biggest issue for us."

While the noise of sellers and their gadgets, including puppets and TV sets playing cartoons, faded as stalls were gradually being emptied yesterday, some visitors were asking more about current events in the Middle East than about the books.

"We would get Emiratis coming over to our stalls and expressing sympathy over what is happening in Syria," said AbdulRahman, 23, a seller for the Oulmae Segar publishing company in Syria.

AbdulRahman said these were "tough and anxious times" for his country's nationals.

"Syrians who came over to the stall never asked and never even mentioned Syria. It is best to just not discuss it," he said, adding Syrian publishers were banned from attending book fairs in Saudi Arabia.

"It is getting tough to sell anything Syrian outside Syria, and within Syria as well."

AbdulRahman had the Quran playing on his laptop to pray for a better Syria.

Another stallholder at the book fair did not have a moment's rest.

"Everyone comes and asks me to draw their names in a unique way and to make sure to never draw the same design again," said the Emirati calligrapher Mohammed Mandi.

Mr Mandi's famous work has appeared on local currency and the front covers of the UAE, Bahraini, Omani, Qatari and Kuwaiti passports.

"I can't leave my desk without worrying about my special pens and people following me," the artist said with a smile.

Seemingly everyone wanted to take home a piece of art created by Mr Mandi, 51 - their and their parents' names and even their places of work.

"It is good to know that while there are many who can't even read Arabic, [they] want their names written in it," he said.

Back at Mr Pereyra's stall, his best-selling little book in Abu Dhabi has been Nectar of the Quran, which contains selected verses from the holy book in English. It sold for Dh30.

Others have been "guiding wisdom" books that came as a collection and were set on a wooden bookshelf like a mantelpiece, selling for Dh85.

Only a few of Mr Pereyra's books needed a magnifying glass.

"Other publishing companies have copied us and our idea, but it's OK," he said. "This only means that books are still in demand and everyone wants to get in on the game.

"Books will outlast us all, even the smallest ones."