Abu Dhabi International Book Fair Outlines Early Details

In News by Porter Anderson

With Egypt as guest of honor this year, Abu Dhabi International Book Fair has named the late Naguib Mahfouz is ‘focus personality.’

On the exhibition floor of the 2023 Abu Dhabi International Book Fair. Image: Publishing Perspectives, Porter Anderson

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Intellectuals as Cultural and Creative Icons’
The Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre has announced some details for its 33rd edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair (April 29 to May 5), including a revisitation of the work of the late Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz (1911-2006) as the show’s “focus personality.”

Mahfouz, who passed away 16 years ago might seem an interesting choice, of course, for a contemporary public-facing book fair’s “focus personality.” But Cairo’s Naguib Mahfouz Abdelaziz Ibrahim Ahmed Al-Basha was the 1988 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and is understood by many to have been among the first to establish a contemporary idiom for Arabic literature in a huge canon including 35 novels, more than two dozen screenplays, and a number of playscripts for the theater.

Dr. Ali Bin Tamim

Dr. Ali Bin Tamim, chair of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre, says, “The fair continues to enrich the cultural landscape of the Arab world with its inspiring initiatives.

“Egypt specifically has been a pioneer in creative work on various fronts including literary, artistic, intellectual, and cognitive. Naguib Mahfouz is the dean of Arab novelists, a figure who placed Arab literature and the distinctive aspects of Egyptian local culture on an international platform.

Naguib Mahfouz

“He introduced Arab culture to other people and civilizations, broadening its reach and scope, shedding light on its aesthetic quality and richness.”

Bin Tamim is also highlighting the “focus personality” tradition as playing a role in promoting sustainability in alignment with the United Arab Emirates’ leadership.

“This tradition,” he says, “honors intellectuals as cultural and creative icons who have significantly enriched humanity, and introduces their work to the next generation. Moreover, it fosters meaningful intercultural dialogue by bridging the cultural divide between the UAE, the Arab world, and the diverse global cultures represented at the fair.”

Mahfouz’  homeland of Egypt, in fact, is the guest of honor market for the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

This year’s fair will be preceded by the third edition of the International Congress of Arabic Publishing and Creative Industries on April 28.

‘Books of the World’

Another part of this  year’s Abu Dhabi fair programming involves what’s called Books of the World, spotlighting work “that has shaped human civilization over the years and has influenced culture in unique ways.

‘Kalila and Dimna’

This year’s “book of the world” is Kalila and Dimna by Abdullah Ibn Al Muqaffa.

In parallel to the book fair, an art exhibition, From Kalila wa Dimna to La Fontaine: Travelling through Fables, will be hosted by Louvre Abu Dhabi to complement this literary exploration.

Kalila wa Dimna is one of the most prominent works from Arabic literature. It has earned the distinction of being among the four outstanding books alongside Al Mubarrad’s Al-Kamil; Al-Jahiz’s Al-Bayan wa al-Tabyin; and Ibn Rushd’s Al-Umdah. It serves as an excellent representation of the cultural synthesis between civilizations, based on its origin that combines languages such as Sanskrit from India, Pahlavi from Persia and Arabic elements. The book is celebrated for influencing other cultures most notably the great French poet Jean de La Fontaine who drew inspiration from it in creating one of his finest fables, and the late Ahmed Shawqi, who crafted his significant collection for children based on it.”

Once more this year, the show is set at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center, and we anticipate the ceremony for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award to be held on April 31. We’ll have more information about it as details are made available.

The 2023 edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair offered more than 500,000 books, displayed by more than 1,300 exhibitors and publishers from 85 nations.

More from Publishing Perspectives on the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center is here, more on Arabic literature is here, and more on translation is here. More from us on the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is here.

Publishing Perspectives is the world media partner of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award. Our extended coverage of ADIBF 2024 is supported by the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.