Sharjah International Book Fair 29th Edition

My photo
Sharjah, United Arab Emirates
ExpoCenter 7th - 17th November, 2012. Hours | Saturday - Thursday: 10a.m. - 10p.m.; Friday: 4p.m - 10p.m.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Winter Read for BBC Books Cafe

While I was in Sharjah at the International Book Fair I recorded a piece for the BBC Scotland’sBBC Books Café about my favourite ‘Winter Read’. I received a tweet saying that the piece had been edited and was to be included on today’s programme but unfortunately, it never showed up.

So, having promised on twitter and facebook that the piece would be on, I thought it only fair to post the original audio file that I sent to them.

Maybe it will be broadcast next week?

Use the comments to tell me what you like to read in the deep dark depths of winter and, if you can’t see the full story already, click the ‘read more’ below the tags to see a transcript of audio, and my one-line reviews of the first three Dune books.
I’m standing with my back to a cooling palm grove and facing out across a crystal lagoon. Beyond it I can see a regiment of shiny modern tower blocks. I’m in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates where I’m talking at the International Book Fair about my novel The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth. The breeze on my face is hot, it has the promise of the desert about it, and makes this the ideal place to tell you about my favourite Winter Read.

I fell in love with Frank Herbert’s Dune whilst I was a school boy. I had popped into the local bookshop and was skimming an anthology of science fiction. I happened to flick to a story that was a sample chapter from Dune.

Dune itself is a coming of age story about a young man, set against the wildly exotic backdrop of the desert planet Arrakis, a world so hot and barren that its inhabitants must wear stillsuits to collect and purify ever drop of body water.

The sample told the tale of the Imperial Planetologist’s demise, stranded in a scalding desert with a vandalised stillsuit. In his final moments he realised the importance of the giant worms that swim in the sandy seas like vengeful whales. I was utterly transported. I was there, literally on a different planet.

The book begins, like Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, almost sedately, away from the central setting, pulling us into the lives of the characters when all I impatiently wanted was to get into the desert (or to the frontline in Remarque’s case).

And in that desert I found the power of words. The profound relocation that they can bring to the mind, taking it into whole new lives and locations, thoughts and feelings, ways of looking, ways of knowing.

Although I find that now in so many other great works, whenever the air turns chill and the leaves begin to fall, I feel myself again needing the comfort of the desert, and the promise of greater adventure. Dune always gives me that.

Monday, 12 December 2011

في حب الكلمة المقروءة - معرض الشارقة للكتاب 30

نوفمبر, 2011

في حب الكلمة المقروءة - معرض الشارقة للكتاب 30

افتُتح معرض الشارقة للكتاب يوم الأربعاء الموافق للسادس عشر من تشرين الثاني، وتستمر فعالياته حتى مساء اليوم.  ونظراً لتفرغي هذا العام من الدراسة استطعت أن أرتب زيارتين جيدتين رغم قصرهما للمعرض، كانت الأولى مطلع الأسبوع الماضي والثانية في نهايته.

لم اطلع على جدول الأنشطة هذا العام، و لكن خلال تواجدي وقَّع كُتاب كثر رواياتهم \ كتبهم \ ودواوينهم الشعرية الجديدة.  وكان هناك حضور كبير للجالية الهندية من خلال الفعاليات الكثيرة التي نظمت لها؛ فقد وقع بعض الروائيين الهنود كتبهم في المعرض مثل الروائي الصاعد باغات لروايته الجديدة : الثورة 2020 .

في هذا العام خُصصت قاعة مستقلة للأطفال، وهو ما أراح المعرض من الازدحام الشديد خلال تواجد الأطفال فيه وأراح العامة من الضجيج الكبير الذي يصدرونه خصوصاً خلال الرحلات المدرسية الصباحية.  وقد بدت القاعة مميزة جداً وجميلة، وفيها من النشاطات الكثير. وخلال رحلتي قضيت فيها وقتاً ممتعاً وجميلاً .

توقعت أن تغيب بعض الدور السورية و المصرية، ولكنها كانت حاضرة ككل عام تقريباً ولم ألمس أي تغيير فيها. وقد كان الجناح السعودي هو الأضخم و الأرتب هذا العام . ولن أنسى كلمة ؛ أفضل مشروع ترجمة عربي حتى اليوم، والتي تثرينا كل عام بمجموعة مميزة من الكتب مترجمة بأمانة وحرفية عالية، وهي على عكس العديد من الدور التي صارت تُترجم لأجل المكسب المادي فقط ، وأتذكر نقاشاً دار بيني وبين " العمو " في دار الفارابي حينما ذهبت إليه ككل عام وسألته : وماذا عن مسرحيات لوركا هذه المرة ؟ فقال لي المسرحيات الأربع توقفنا عن طباعتها لأنها لا تأتينا بربح كهذه الكتب . لا أحد يقرأ. ولا أحد يريد شراءها .

لا تختلف أسعار الكتب عن أسعار الماضي، وهي بالمناسبة كأسعار السوق وأحياناً أعلى، ومن خلال ملاحظتي فبعض الدور تنشر أسعاراً للكتب على مواقعها ولكنك تتفاجأ بأنها تطلب منك سعراً أعلى في المعرض؛ فلا أحد يلتزم بنسبة التخفيض المفروضة إلا دور قليلة جداً .

المعرض كان هادئاً هذا العام ولكنه جميلٌ وثري ككل عام .

جانب من المعرض : ( اضغط على الصورة للتكبير )

Thursday, 8 December 2011

‘Mera Watan’ launch at Sharjah International Book Fair

Nov 24 2011 : Malayalam translation of Jaihoon’s travelogue, THE COOL BREEZE FROM HIND, was released at the Sharjah International Book Fair under the title ‘MeraWatan’ (my Homeland) by Sophie Cooke, Scottish novelist and travel writer. The plot is based on the narrative of a UAE-grown Indian youth about his discovery of the historic and ethnic roots of his homeland. The narrator, educated and brought up in Sharjah, interprets his experiences in the backdrop of the cultural glory of the emirate of Sharjah.

Hues n Shades: I am Bond, Ruskin Bond :)

Sharjah International Book Fair happens every year at the Sharjah Expo Center. This year it was filled with much more zest than I have witnessed in the previous two years. This year some Great authors were associated with it. They were making their special appearances to the delight of people like us, the Book Lovers’.

Nov 23rd was the day Mr. Ruskin Bond, got to the Dome where the authors meet and interact with the audience. According to RB he was seeing something like that for the first time, “It is like sitting inside an Ostrich egg…with good company.”

RB did have company on the dias; His Excellency Sanjay Varma - Consul General of India, Mr.Kalpesh from Rupa Publications and Karen who joined Mr.Kalpesh in the Talk with RB.
The first story that I read of Ruskin Bond was The Night Train at Deoli. It still lingers in my mind. The visuals are still there and Prof. Vijay Nair’s words are still in the air. It’s as if I haven’t got off the train yetJ. That was when I fell in love with his simple yet intense web of words. I was 17 then.

Yester’ I heard RB’s voice for real and I was getting goosebumbs! My god! Was this real!!!!! His smile, his gestures, his speech…so surreal! Yet, he was there sitting on the dias speaking to us of his experiences and tidbits which was otherwise not so common or shall I say impossible for us to have heard it.

Five Anecdotes

First : In a School

Ruskin Bond was in a school where he was interacting with kids. The teacher there asked one of the students (a 10 year old):

“What do you think of Ruskin Bond as a writer?”

She looked at him, observed him up and down and replied:

“You are not a BAD writer!”

Second: First Work
To one of the questions asked by Mr. Kalpesh…
Is there any work of yours, still in the closet, yet to be published?

RB said that he wrote his first story when he was 8. The flaw was that he included his teachers as characters in the story. He wrote about his Principal’s wife who fell from the stairs and such other interesting tales of his teachers. Once he had it in his classroom which was obviously confiscated by the teacher which was later submitted to the Principal. RB got his summons from the Princi’s office and obviously he was flogged for wasting his time with his useless writing. His first work, story reached the Princi’s trash bin in bits and pieces. That was end of his first story!

Obviously it didn’t see the light of day. He advised young writers’ not to include their teachers as characters and if at all they wanted to then do it once they are out of school.

Third: At the Bookstore

When RB was a novice and his book had made it’s appearance in the bookstore, he used to meander through the store to feel the thrill of seeing his work in paperbacks. And one such occasion he found his book dumped under a pile of books by authors famous during that period. He looked around, no one was found observing him, took his books from under the pile and stacked it on top. Immediately, he heard the person at the cash call out “Yeh nahi chalta…neeche hi rakh deejiye!” (It roughly means “It doesn’t sell. Keep it underneath itself.”)

Fourth: At the Location of 7 Khoon Maaf
RB says he was offered a role in 7 Khoon Maaf, a movie based on his book –Susanna’s Seven Husbands. His role was small where he had to kiss the cheek and give an advice to the lady lead played by Priyanka Chopra. The first time he did it, it turned out to be clumsy. He had to retake it a few times and after the twelfth retake, the director, Vishal Bharadwaj said “Now Mr. Bond, you are doing this on purpose!”

Fifth: A Taxi Journey

On one of his journey to a book fair or some meeting, he was traveling by taxi. The driver sped so fast that he had to pick on his brake at some point so harshly that RB’s reading glasses toppled and fell over the Driver. The driver on procuring the glasses refused to return it to RB saying that if he wore it may be he could become a writer too. In return he readily offered his glasses to RB. RB replied that if his glasses could make the driver a writer, then the driver’s glasses could make the writer a driverJ

Book Signing

There was a book signing session as well. There was too loud a hue and cry by the teens for it. I had bought a couple of books – a book of verse, a journal, a memoir and two for my daughter who wanted to get her book signed by RB as well. I must say she was a great sport. We went after the rush and got it signed. We were so very thrilledJ

Hues n Shades: Jaishree Misra and Rani - Sharjah International Bookfair


I had just recovered from fever when I had gone to ‘Meet’ Ruskin Bond. After I came out of the Dome I saw that the next day The Chair was to presided over by Jaishree Misra. I had not read any works of JM but I wanted to go the next day to hear her. My husband knew my LOVE for Lit and he agreed.

So there I was the next day running to get a book of JM as I had to get it signed. We were late as it’s a working day and I had to finish my daughter’s homework and stuff before I could make it to the Dome. All her books had been sold out except for few copies of Rani and Ancient Promises in Malayalam. I always preferred reading the original. I thought “Ok. Rani is Jhansi ki Rani’s story which I knew what it is. So I will buy Ancient Promises even though it’s in Malayalam. I can give to my mom who just loves books.” (I got this Love for Lit from Her!)

Jaishree Misra as a matter of fact is a very Lovely lady, extremely delightful to be with and listen to, jovial and pleasant and there I was deeply influenced by her. I loved her, my daughter did too. I must say my daughter is such a sport. She was as excited as I was (everyday)!!!

pictures projected during JM's presentation on Rani.
Rani, Lord Dalhousie's letter to Major Ellis, Rani's Fort,
The famous Rani of Jhansi's statue,
Supposed portrait of Rani Lakshmi Bai,
Memorial of Rani

JM gave a presentation on her latest work Rani and I enjoyed it thoroughly. As she read excerpts from the book and narrated the thought process that went behind I regretted my decision of not buying Rani. It is basically from the point of view of Rani Lakshmi Bai as a woman – daughter, wife, mother, queen. The inner turmoil that Rani went through each phase of her life.
There was an interactive session too where I even had the opportunity to ask her a query. I was so elated that I don’t remember what she replied. I was in a trance! During the book signing, she asked to whom I want it to be addressed…even struck a conversation on my daughter’s name and joked. I just wondered even in the busy schedule that they were, many wouldn’t even notice to whom they are signing (and I totally understand that).And here was JM who took time to do some small talk with the audience. I loved her!

Thank you dear friends for taking out your precious time to read it :)

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

The Arab Comics Explosion (in Translation) and ‘Muktatafaht’ | Arabic Literature (in English)

Anna Mudd drawing with Magdy al-Shafee.

Publisher, educator, andgraphic novelist Anna Mudd recently attended the 30th Sharjah International Book Fair, where she collaborated with a number of prominent Arab graphic novelists. She writes:

As one of two staff members of the Outreach Office at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard, I was thrilled at the chance to attend this year’s 30th International Bookfair at Sharjah.

A priority for our time at the event was the chance for myself and the center director to meet many of the artists who will be contributing to Muktatafaht, the forthcoming anthology of independent comics from the Middle East Region. (Muktatafaht will be released and distributed throughout the U.S. during Free Comic Book Day run by Diamond Comic Distributors in May of 2012.)

Not only was this a chance to meeting, talk (and, thrill of thrills, draw) with the talented folks with whom I had only been emailing and skyping for the past year and a half, but also a chance to get more of a sense of the growing context for independent, grassroots as well as mainstream comics in the region.

So, what did we learn?

Seven of the thirteen artists contributing to Muktatafaht were able to attend the fair. The collection itself is in no way intended to be comprehensive (what a feat it would be to include all of the vast talent working in the region today!), but to highlight pieces by artists with whom we have worked on various programming over the past year, and whose work we find particularly compelling. Pictured above are (from left to right) is the Cario-based Tok Tok contributor Mohammed Tawfik, Tok Tok co-founder and contributor Mohamed el Shennawy, myself, Beirut-based Samandal contributor Jana Trablousi, Egyptian comic artist Magdy el Shafee, U.S. based comic scholar Nadim Damluji (not a contributor but a new friend and colleague), author of “Falasteezee” Mahdi Fleifel and Jordan-based political cartoonist Nidal Elkhairy. (Not pictured: Samandalcontributor Barrack Rima.)

We were excited to not only see the newest editions of Tok Tok (3 and 4) andSamandal (11) but to hear about increasing cross-regional collaborations and projects with which many of the artists were involved. Magdy el Shafee, making his U.S. debut, was one of several comic artists from the Arab world featured in the most recent issue of the long running radical comic magazine “World War 3 Illustrated,” in an issue themed “liberation from the Mid-East to the Mid-West” along side such U.S. figures as radical anarchist comic artist Seth Tobocman.

Barrack Rima was one of four artists who participated in “Doppio Senso,” a project in experimental aesthetics pairing Lebanese and Italian comic artists as part of recent comic gathering in Italy.

Collaboration and cross inspiration between comic and street artists has a lengthy legacy, particularly in radical circles. Another project we were excited to see was the new zine including the work of many graphic and comic artists produced with Egyptian graffiti artist Ganzeer.

And of course, comic work itself continues to grow, with new projects such as the Lebanese La Furie des Glandeurs. We were particularly excited to make the acquaintance of Nadim Damluji, mentioned above, whose work is exploring this wide range of Middle East comics from an academic perspective.

Emirati graphic novelist Qais Sedki talks about his work for children.

The fair itself had one panel devoted to comics, though its focus was on artists working in more mainstream contexts and aesthetics. Creator of superhero series“The 99” Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, creator of the Manga seriesGold Ring Qais Sedki and founders of the forthcoming UAE-basedMiddle East Comic-Conwere featured, among others.

Relationships between the larger Comic Cons and the numerous more independently oriented expos and fests in the U.S. is always interesting, and it will certainly be noteworthy to see how these communities develop in the Middle East region. The kinds of film and gaming focus tied in to events such as Middle East Comic Con have allowed them to draw on a significant field of media sponsors and I’m sure the event will generate a large amount of visibility when it comes to fruition. (As a side note, for a great look at the intersection worlds of critical politics and Sci Fi, check out the great blog “Islam and Science Fiction” at

At the fair’s conclusion (and, sadly, one day following our departure) four of the remaining artists produced a small zine combining sketches and reflections. We have not yet received our copy but will post as soon as we do!

Monday, 5 December 2011

In conversation with Sanjay Verma, Consul General of India | Manipal Dubai Blog

The Manipal Dubai Blog caught up with Sanjay Verma, the Consul General of India, as he shared his views on the Sharjah International Book Fair 2011, his reading habits and how important it is for today’s youngsters to read.

Sanjay Verma, Consul General of India at the
Sharjah International Book Fair 2011

What do you have to say about the ‘India Focus’ being the highlight of the 30th Sharjah International Book Fair?

Sanjay Verma: One way of looking at it is the strengthening relationship between the UAE and India as it is multifaceted with the movement of human resources from India as well as elements of trade and investments. But this participation in the Sharjah International Book Fair 2011 is an expression of the cultural relationship between the top countries.

And by focusing on India in this part of the world, we are recognizing the literary depth in India. In fact we have 22 official languages, thousands of dialects and a literary heritage. Some of our languages go back to over three thousand years (maybe more)... South Indian languages, Tamil and Bengali and Sanskrit. Even English is among them as I consider it as an Indian language. Overall, the publishing industry is doing well and writers are well known. This book fair serves as an opportunity for Emiratis to know more about our writers and books.

Enlighten us on your reading habits. What do you like to read?

SV: At any given time I read 10-12 books at the same time. Presently I’m reading a book on films and philosophy on how philosophical concepts are sometimes consciously or sub-consciously adopted or filmed by filmmakers.

Then an English translation of 'IQ84' by Haruki Murakami, who is one of the finest Japanese writers alive today. I don’t have a particular genre; I make it a point to read all top non-fiction books. Non-fiction books could be on psychology, finance, international economics or on international politics. I’m reading 'Quest', a book by Daniel Yergin on energy politics.

Sanjay Verma with his favourite author Ruskin Bond at the Sharjah International Book Fair
on the 23rd November 2011

Who is your favourite author?

SV: Authors, there are many authors that make it to my favourite list. My favorite authors are Ruskin Bond, Amitav Gosh, Ramachandra Guha, who writes about cricket, environment and on Indian history as well as Kakar who is a social psychologist.

Which book or authors do you recommend to youngsters today?

SV: I wouldn’t know where to begin or how to recommend books to the younger generation as they are more fixated towards moving images.

But one of my favourites and a book that I highly recommend is ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ by Harper Lee. That’s a great story about growing up in America during the 50’s and racial issues.
Amitav Ghosh anytime, any of his books. Amartya Sen’s books, because these people are a different league in terms of intellectual ability to comprehend and explain things articulate them.

Would you like to share a message for our students at Manipal University, Dubai?

SV: Students should read lot more than they are presently reading. When you read, you’re making a cautious decision to reach out to a particular topic or a subject. But you rely on television- you're passive, you are getting what is shown. And the world today is far more multicultural, it’s a little more complex, through reading you can understand the complexity.

The students of today are privileged, you need to make use of that education to be able understand the patterns of social behaviour or economics and even to analyze and look at things a little differently than what your parents or your grandparents did.

Books require a little effort and the serious books require a lot more effort, even for me, sometimes to read a really serious intellectual book, it takes some effort but once you start doing it, there are no issues. It is like eating popcorn and a Chinese meal- you can’t compare the two until you have tasted it.