By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Sheikh Sultan: ‘Connections With Cultures Across the World’Led by Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi and the Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi, today’s (November 1) opening of the Sharjah International Book Fair included the launch by Sheikh Sultan of 31 new volumes in his Historical Dictionary of the Arabic Language.
Now with 67 volumes out—and said to have the input of some 500 scholars and specialists—the project is expected to reach 110 volumes in completion in 2024, setting a tone of deep scholarship as well as an insistence on the pleasure of reading, captured in this year’s theme, We Speak Books.
Sheikh Sultan called this 42nd iteration of the fair “a celebration of 12 days of cultural activities” and a chance “for children, young adults, and families across the United Arab Emirates to enrich their learning in arts and sciences” while forging “close connections with cultures across the world through books of diverse genres at the fair.”
Once again, the author-emir (here are Sheikh Sultan’s own published writings on history and other themes) is pledging financial support for publishers, for many of whom the Sharjah show is the year’s single most important revenue-making event. Families, school students, and others will find something around 1.5 million titles on display and for sale this year
Following the Publishers Conference with which Sharjah Book Authority precedes its public-facing book fair (running through November 12), the fair now goes forward with 2,033 publishers from 108 countries participating, and will feature authors including the Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka and New York’s Malcolm Gladwell among visiting authors, as well as Kareena Kapoor, a Bollywood actress; Booker-winning Bulgarian author Georgi Gospodinov; and the Swedish writer Thomas Erikson.
For the first time observed by this reporter, Sheikha Bodour Al Qasimi joined her father onstage in honoring two winners of the program’s awards. Sheikha Bodour has recently taken on the leadership of the Sharjah Book Authority, as our readers know, in the position of its chairperson.
With Guest of Honor South Korea installed on the main exhibition floor, the show is scheduled to offer 1,700 events this year, and as many as 600 authors for speaking and book-signing engagements.
Libyan writer and novelist Ibrahim Al-Koni, 75, spoke briefly during the opening today, awarded the honor of being this year’s “Cultural Personality of the Year,” reportedly having published some 81 titles.
In honoring Al-Koni’s achievements, Book Authority CEO Ahmed Al Ameri said, “The authority believes that honoring cultural and literary figures is an important step in building the cultural identity of any civilization and nation.
“The emirate has become a platform for honoring Arabs whose thought and literary contributions have become a cornerstone of literature and knowledge. This includes the Libyan writer and novelist Ibrahim Al-Koni, whose recognition today asserts the strength of literature, culture, and knowledge in presenting the Arab identity to the world.”
In its longevity, scale, drawing power, the Sharjah show—especially coupled with its three-day Publishers Conference, just concluded—stands as what most observers will say is the largest, most influential, and most avidly attended in the Arab world.
Last year’s edition drew what organizers reported to be 2.17 million visitors during its run, and this year’s turnout is expected to be even stronger.
Mansour Al Hassani, director of publishers’ services at Sharjah Book Authority, and Khoula Al Mujaini, general coordinator of Sharjah International Book Fair, are the key Book Authority organizational figures on these projects and ensured that today’s opening went off with the customary amalgam of intricate video and stage presentation for an enormous invited audience at Expo Centre Sharjah.
More from Publishing Perspectives on the Sharjah Book Authority is here, more on the Sharjah International book Fair is here, more on Sharjah and its programs overall is here, and more on the book publishing industry in the United Arab Emirates is here.