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Sharjah International Book Fair Stayed Open to Midnight to Cope with Crowds

The Sharjah International Book Fair, which finished on Sunday, 13 November, had to stay open until midnight at weekends to cope with the crowds.

Apart from its popularity with the public, more than 1,000 publication rights agreements were signed, making it “the world’s largest book fair” in terms of property rights for the second year in a row, its delighted deputy director, Fadel Hussein, told Al-Fanar Media.   

Under the slogan “Spread the Word”, the 41st Sharjah International Book Fair took place from November 2 through 13 at the Expo Centre Sharjah. It brought together 2,213 publishers from 95 countries who attended more than 1,000 events over the twelve days of the fair.

Intellectual Property Rights

At the Arab Publishers’ Conference, one of the fair’s main events, participants discussed the crisis the Covid-19 pandemic had caused to the publishing industry and education in the Arab world.

The conference recommended a study group to ensure the future of Arab libraries, and freedom of expression in the Arab world.

The fair’s success “makes us realise our ambition of having Arabic books available to foreign publishers and having them translated into foreign languages,”

Fadel Hussein, the fair’s deputy director. “Arabic books deserve to be translated.”

Arab publishers also discussed the permanent effects Covid-19 had had on trade, how to mitigate those impacts, the future of book fairs in light of the spread of digital and audio books, and how to reach an ideal balance between paper and digital in the book industry.

The publishers also recommended drawing up a list of websites that infringe intellectual property rights and publish pirated books and publications. They want to submit this list to authorities in each country in hopes of banning those websites and reducing online book piracy in the Arab world.

Support for Translation

Fadel Hussein told Al-Fanar Media that the success of the Sharjah International Book Fair “makes us realise our ambition of having Arabic books available to foreign publishers and having them translated into foreign languages.”

“Arabic books deserve to be translated,” Hussein said, noting that in the past translation had mainly been of foreign literature into Arabic.

Hussein could not hide his pleasure at the large numbers of people who attended the exhibition. The turnout was so large that the exhibition’s managers decided to stay open until midnight at weekends.

Italy as Guest of Honour

The Sharjah Book Authority made Italy the Guest of Honour at this year’s Sharjah International Book Fair. A stellar gathering of Italian authors, artists and publishers attended to promote the Italian arts, literature and culture. Visitors were able to explore a wide spectrum of Italian literature, learn about Italy’s ancient cultures, enjoy its classical and folk music, and savour the world’s most loved cuisine.

A large turnout of the public to visit the Sharjah Book Fair. (exposition).

At the fair’s Cookery Corner, the Michelin-starred chef Cristina Bowerman prepared various Italian dishes in front of packed crowds. The Italian pavilion also offered presentations by best-selling Italian authors, concerts, workshops for children and cooking lessons. And some the country’s most successful cookbooks were available, of course.

Italian authors who talked about their craft and the stories behind their works included the Tuscan writer and cellist Alice Cappagli, whose novel “Ricordati di Bach” (“Remember Bach”) covers the journey and education of a musician; and Giuseppe Catozzella, a popular writer of plays, short stories and novels whom the United Nations refugee agency has appointed as a UNHCR goodwill ambassador.

Other speakers included Giuseppe Conte, a poet, novelist, and translator; Domenico Scarpa, a literary critic and translator; Fabio Volo, a writer, author, and radio and TV presenter; and Francesca Maria Corrao, a professor of Arabic language and culture in the department of political science at Luiss (Free International University of Social Studies) Guido Carli University.

Publication Deals

Above all, the Sharjah International Book Fair gives publishers a chance to sign cultural agreements, Dina Kabil, publishing director at Al-Maraya House for Culture and Arts, in Egypt, told Al-Fanar Media.

The Sharjah Translation Award went to Italy’s Istituto per l’Oriente Carlo Alfonso Nallino for its translation to Italian of Sulaiman Al Bustani’s forward to his Arabic translation of The Iliad.

She said she had signed an agreement at the fair with the EBSCO platform, which specialises in electronic publishing, to make Al-Maraya’s publications available to readers through EBSCO’S Internet platform.

Awards and Honours

The Sharjah Book Authority presented a number of prizes to authors and publishers at this year’s fair.

The Sharjah Translation Award, also known as the Turjuman Award, went to Italy’s Istituto per l’Oriente Carlo Alfonso Nallino for its translation to Italian of Sulaiman Al Bustani’s forward to his Arabic translation of The Iliad. Claudio Lo Lacano, director of the institute, accepted the prize, worth about $350,000. 

Mashael Al Nabooda won the best Emirati novel award for her book “Jerah Mozmena.”

Abdallah Suleiman Al Mughani received the prize for the best Emirati academic book for his “Features of the United Arab Emirates’ History Through the Writings of Western Travellers and Politicians.”

Shaikha Saif Al Nakhi won the best Emirate creative literature award for her book “Those Days.”

The Kuwaiti author Muna Al Shimani won the best Arabic novel prize for “Khademat Al Maqam.”

Angelika Dunsmore, head of sales for the Penguin Group, accepted the best international nonfiction book award on behalf of DK |Penguin Random House for “Micro Life: Miracles of the Miniature World Revealed,” and the South African author Futhi Ntshingila the best international fiction book award for his novel “They Got You Too.”

Rewayat, an imprint of Kalimat, won the best local publisher recognition award. Lebanon’s Arab Diffusion Company won the best Arab publisher award, and International Islamic Publishing House received the best international publisher award.



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