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Friday, 27 February 2009

In Brief: Emirates Festival of Literature II

by Suzan Abrams
What a terrific inspiring day for me. Certainly, I've come a long way from my days in Malaysia. In brief because it's very late at night, I've been out all day and am feeling terribly tired...
Today I enjoyed a private chat withAmerican-Iranian novelist, Anita Amirezzvani and met and spoke also with Denys-Johnson Davis, the foremost distinguished English translator of Arabic literature. It's because of Davis that I've been able to acquaint myself with Arabic literature at all. I never thought I would meet this beautiful man. I remember writing about Egyptian literature on the Guardian Books Blog and was glad that I was able to check facts and even eccentric personalities with Davis, who shared with me, his friendships with Egyptian writers. I am so glad that he made some minutes to tell me a few things I wanted to know in private. He was very good friends with many old Egyptian writers of the past and regaled us with humorous episodes encountered with Mahfaouz and the like.
I also attended two long discussions on Arabic translations into English as I really wanted to learn as much as I could. The translators contributed so much to the discussions. Again, though I shall have to regretfully say that I will write all this out in detail later on, as I am terribly tired.
I attended a talk on women writing from the Arab world and met the coy pint-sized Rajaa AlSanea complete with heavy American accent; for her famed Girls of Riyadh for the first time. Imagine my delight at hearing her describe the writing process of her own novel and the subsequent reactions to it, instead of relying or quoting media reports.
Wilbur Smith, the expert on old Rhodesia and East African (Victorian era) fiction, unveiled a new title for us all, 6 weeks before its official publication. He spoke to a packed room of a mainly British audience.
I also attended an evening of Arabic poetry.
It was all pretty wonderful.
The literary festival was packed with Europeans and Middle-Easterners today. It has turned out to be a resounding and overwhelming success. The customer service has also been efficient and excellent. Anything the Emiratis attempt, they're sure to do it with style.
All the time, there were other writers about. Those like Frank McCourt, the handsome Paul Blezard, celebrity mind expert Robin Sharma, the industrious Kate Mosse and Penny Vincenzi among many others, all commanded big audiences.
Oh and I bought interesting titles that I wouldn't otherwise have found in the main European bookstores.

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