Award-winning international authors, local talents and academics will converge at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair this month, to discuss topics ranging from the evolution of language to the importance of science-fiction in transporting readers away from their daily reality.
More than 800 exhibitors from 46 countries will take part in the fair, in a programme that includes a hybrid of more than 100 online and physical events, held in English and Arabic.
More than 20 local and international cultural institutions and organisations are scheduled to take part, with a number of safety measures in place, including the requirement that all visitors present a negative PCR test.
Taking place from May 23 to 29 at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, the festival will feature an expansive programme of cultural, professional and educational elements.
The event is being held under the patronage of Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and is organised by the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre at the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi.
As part of its cultural programme, the fair will highlight the literary and artistic works of creatives from various fields, including American author Tayari Jones, who will host a session to discuss her latest work.
Famed American fantasy writer Brent Weeks will talk about the importance of science-fiction, while Kuwaiti writer Taleb Alrefai will hold a discussion with the UAE's Eman Al Yousuf, to explore how the pandemic has contributed to an increase in reading around the world.
Another Emirati talent, Sultan Al Amimi, will talk about the importance of short stories and their role in enhancing literary diversity.
British television presenter and historian Bettany Hughes, meanwhile, will join a conversation about the impact of plagues and pandemics on various civilisations.
The programme will also feature French novelist Gilbert Sinoue, who will discuss his book The Falcon, which contains stories from the life of Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, and Tuesdays with Morrie writer Mitch Albom, who will participate in a session addressing the role literature can play in building tolerance and compassion.
The fair’s professional programme will include a series of panel discussions that address critical issues affecting publishers and authors.
These include a session on the challenges of copyright and piracy led by Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, president of the International Publishers Association, and Richard Charkin, former president of the IPA and British Publishers Association.
Other topics to be discussed during the fair include the evolution of language and its influence on culture, and how classical language can be adapted to remain relevant.
Laila Familiar, senior lecturer of Arabic at New York University Abu Dhabi will present a new dictionary that includes the most commonly used 2,000 modern words in contemporary Arabic fiction.
"Despite the challenges we have faced in the wake of the pandemic, the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair is committed to ramping up its efforts to support the publishing industry and to promote cross-cultural dialogue," said Ali bin Tamim, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre.
"We are proud to host this event which reinforces our position as one of the most prominent intellectual and literary forums in region, and gives us the opportunity to highlight Arab literary output while simultaneously celebrating the pioneers of arts and culture from across the world."