By Roger Tagholm
Given that the ruler of Sharjah, His Highness Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, is fond of saying that the book is the symbol of his emirate, it was only appropriate that Bloomsbury UK chose to launch his memoirs My Early Life, with a lavish dinner at London’s very own temple of the book, the British Library earlier this month.
With a specially-designed Arabic stage and a guest list that included the Egyptian Ambassador His Excellency Mr Hatem Seif El Nasr, as well as many of the great and good in London publishing, this was a cross between a book industry conference and a diplomatic event -– and, it must be said, a resounding success.
Bloomsbury Chief Executive Nigel Newton who has led the way in forging many links with the Gulf, notably with the establishment of the Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation, as well his support for the Sharjah International Book Fair, noted that Sheikh Mohammed had researched many of his 33 books “in the shelves of this very building and in its former home at the British Museum.” He described his latest offering as “no anodyne statesman’s memoirs. It offers unique historical and political insight, and includes many thrilling stories.”
In reply, Sheikh Mohammed praised Bloomsbury’s “exquisite English translation, meticulous editing and engaging graphic design,” but then admitted that if it hadn’t been for the “relentless encouragement” of his wife and children, the book may not have been written at all. What is it they say? Behind every great leader…
Later, he told Publishing Perspectives just how much of a bibliophile he is. “I have 11,000 books about the Gulf and some 13,000 on the Orientalists -– on Iran, Arabia, Asia.” Then came the bad news –- for Amazon at any rate. Does he own a Kindle or another e-reader? “No, no. I prefer to touch, to feel the books.”