The Sharjah Book Authority launched its participation at the London Book Fair with a gala iftar on Sunday.
Held at London’s Royal Opera House, the event was attended by a contingent of Emirati authors, including Dubai Abulhoul, diplomat Omar Saif Ghobash, veteran short-story writer Mohammed Al Murr and poet Afra Atiq.
“Traditionally Ramadan is a time where Muslims join their families and communities each evening to break their fast.
“So this evening to me represents a celebration of our publishing community and our mutual support for one another,” she said.
Al Qasimi went on to detail her experience leading the world’s peak publishing body amid the pandemic.
"Before taking on this role, I already knew we were a diverse industry representing the cultural richness of the human family. But since becoming IPA president and through my extensive travels and engagements with our members globally I have gained a greater appreciation of our diversity and differences,” she said.
“Listening to publishers from the four corners of the world reassured me that the global industry will fare very well through this crisis. This isn't blind optimism, but a real understanding of how resilient and tenacious publishers are.”
It was a sentiment echoed by British actor and playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah in his preceding address.
"The written word has the power to resonate and to motivate across time and across generations," he said.
"Who in this moment of global insecurity has not called upon or heard someone recite an ancient poem or rhyme on the futility of war?"
"Who in this moment of cancel culture can cancel the great communicators of heart, spirit and mind from across the ages? Culture and words matter.”
The iftar set the scene for the Sharjah Book Authority’s extensive programme as part of the London Book Fair, being held at Olympia from Tuesday to Thursday.
With the emirate being showcased as part of the fair's Market Focus, the authority has organised a number of discussions and panels that highlight the UAE’s thriving publishing industry.
Here are six key events:
1. 'Omar Ghobash in Conversation'
Tuesday from 11.05am GMT at the Literary Translation Centre
The Emirati diplomat and acclaimed author will discuss his 2018 book Letters to a Young Muslim, a series of letters to his son about the complexities of life as a modern Muslim.
Ghobash will also discuss the importance of ensuring Arabic literary works are internationally translated and made available globally.
2. 'Mohammed Al Murr in Conversation'
Tuesday from 4.30pm at English PEN Literary Salon
With 15 short story collections set in the UAE, veteran Emirati author Mohammed Al Murr will discuss the nuances of UAE literature and how his work — with its mix of “realism, romance and sarcasm” — is informed by modern Emirati society.
3. ‘The Future of Book Supply’
Wednesday from 10am at Main Stage
A timely discussion looking at the future of printing and publishing in the face of the pandemic.
Sharjah Book Authority chairman Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri will showcase the efforts of Sharjah Publishing City in ensuring supply chain demands are met, as well as its print-on-demand feature.
4. 'Afra Atiq in Conversation'
Wednesday from 1.30pm at the English PEN Literary Salon
The Emirati poet and bilingual spoken-word artist will shed light on the flourishing Emirati female writers collective United Chapters. She'll also reveal some of the findings of her ongoing doctoral research into Instagram’s place in the Arabic literary ecosystem.
5. 'Arabic and English Translation': Trends and Possibilities
Thursday from 2.20pm at the Literary Translation Centre
Featuring Omar Ghobash and scholar and translator of Arabic literature Marylyn Booth, the panel session will not only explore the diversity of Arabic literature, but also subjects and genres yet to be explored.
The speakers will also look at ways to raise the awareness of Arabic literary translation and its promise in reaching a bigger global audience.
6. 'Emirati Poets in London'
Thursday from 7pm at The Arab British Centre
Poets Afra Atiq and Khalid Al Budoor will team up for an enchanting evening of performances featuring various genres, ranging from spoken word to the classical Arabic Nabati poetry.
The evening will also feature a panel session on the literary form and its various evolutions.