Literary festival unveils star line-up



Margaret Atwood, the British historical novelist Bernard Cornwell and the Syrian poet Adonis are among the award-winning writers who will appear at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, the organisers announced yesterday.

The British poet Simon Armitage, children's writer Anthony Horovitz and Michael Palin, the former Monty Python star now famous for his travel writing and BBC television series, will also attend the festival at the InterContinental Hotel in Dubai from March 8 to 12.

"These are writers that have appeal across the board and across nationalities, from new talent that is emerging to globally famous names and personalities with a broad appeal," said Isobel Abulhoul, the festival's director.

The event is in its third year and will feature about 100 authors, with more expected to be announced before March. Other well-known names include Lionel Shriver, the Orange Prize-winning writer of We Need to Talk About Kevin; Tony Parsons, author of Man and Boy; Marina Lewycka, who wrote A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian; the Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan and Madhur Jaffrey, an Indian cookbook writer and BBC television chef.

Margaret Atwood, who wrote The Handmaid's Tale, Alias Grace and won the 2000 Man Booker International Prize for The Blind Assassin, withdrew from the festival last year after another author accused organisers of excluding her for censorship reasons. Ms Atwood later apologised and said she had been misinformed about the facts, going on to conduct her question-and-answer session online.

"I consider her a literary great, as do many others, and it will be fabulous to have her here in person this year," Ms Abulhoul said. She added that she was excited to meet with the Egyptian author of the blog-turned-book I Want to Get Married, Ghada Abdel Aal.

"There are so many exciting Arab-world authors emerging, and I think she is just a great example of work that is humorous and current and something that everyone can appreciate," she said.

The poetry line-up has been expanded to include the Emirati poets Sultan al Amimi, Ahmed Amiri, Ibrahim M Ibrahim and Wael al-Sayegh, Yang Lian, from China, as well as Adonis.

Anthony Browne and Emily Gravett will be among the children's authors and illustrators to join festival favourite Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider series for older children, as well as the newcomer Steven Butler, who wrote The Wrong Pong.

"If we can inject joy and enthusiasm about reading by having writers speak directly with children and their parents, that makes a huge difference in turning non-readers into readers and making books something they will want to turn to for pleasure," Ms Abulhoul said.

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