The fifth Emirates Airline Festival of Literature begins on Tuesday. We look at the big names and special events coming our way
The festival is renowned for bringing the cream of the literary world to Dubai. This year is no different, with an array of blockbuster authors who collectively have sold hundreds of millions of books. In the popular fiction world, names don’t get any bigger than the two Jeffs. Jeffrey Archer holds the distinction of being the only author to top the best selling charts for both fiction, short stories and non-fiction works.
In addition to producing his own share of high-octane thrillers, Jeffery Deaver holds the distinction of being only the second American, after Raymond Benson, chosen to pen a James Bond novel – 2011’s Carte Blanche. There will be crime writers aplenty at the festival, with Lynda La Plante and Ian Rankin joining festival favourite Mark Billingham.
History buffs should be more than pleased with the arrival of Antony Beevor, whose seminal works on the Second World War introduced a new generation of readers to this dark time of our history.
As well as the lively banter of the panel and In Conversation sessions, the festival offers a series of masterclasses tackling topics from sharpening up short stories to unleashing creative potential.
The Booker Prize-winner Ben Okri will guide writers on finding their voice with his creative writing masterclass on Saturday. On the same day, Kate Lord Brown will have a session on how to balance facts and imagination with her session on Historical Fiction.
Poetry lovers should enjoy Geeta Chhabra’s workshop on Friday. The poet will offer advice on how turn pent-up thoughts into words.
It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful setting to hear world-class poetry than a desert camp far from Dubai’s city lights.
On Wednesday, 200 poetry lovers will go on a trip of a lifetime to hear a range of leading poets, including Simon Armitage, Roger McGough and Dubai’s own Adel Khozam, read their work under the stars. “I always thought that you need a quiet setting to listen to poetry,” says Armitage. “I am really looking forward to it as this will be the first time I would have read some of my pieces in such a location.” While Armitage has not yet decided what pieces he will present, he promises it will be a mixed bag from his award-winning career.
The Fringe festival
Alongside all the literary action, the festival is also home to the Penguin Fringe.
The series of free performances will feature local schools, theatre groups and poetry collectives. With more than 40 events on offer, the organiser Lara Matossian-Roberts promises the Penguin Fringe has something for everyone. “It has been getting bigger and bigger,” she says. “It has a very friendly atmosphere and you can see a lot of great local talent as well.” One theatre group doing double duty this month is the Resuscitation Theatre. The group will perform excerpts of Al Malik, an Emiratised take on Shakespeare’s Cymbeline, which they will perform in full as part of this month’s Abu Dhabi Festival.
Best of the Arab world
The region’s biggest and most promising literary figures are also on their way to Dubai. The Palestinian author and political journalist Abdel Bari Atwan returns to the UAE to speak about a post-Osama bin Laden world.
The winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature, Alia Mamdouh, will offer insights into her distinguished career as a novelist and author of short-story collections. The renowned Arabic children’s book writer Taghreed Najjar will also make an appearance.
The Jordanian has enchanted several generations with more than 45 books that she has published over the past three decades.Special eventsAhead of the weekend panel sessions, the festival has a series of events that are as sumptuous as they are quirky. On Tuesday’s opening night, the authors Kate Adie, Philip Ardagh, Atwan, Shobhaa De and Deaver team up to discuss the festival theme: Heroes and Villains.
On Thursday night, crime buffs can share a meal alongside Rankin, La Plante and John Connolly as part of the Murder Mystery Dinner run by the Dubai Theatre Group.
The famed Literary Lunch will also return with the top chefs and television personalities Antonio Carluccio and Bobby Chinn hosting their own meals at the InterContinental’s Terra Firma restaurant on Friday and Saturday respectively.
For the young ones
Young children have as much to enjoy from the festival as adults.
The Kids Zone will host a bunch of free activities on Thursday and Friday. There will be an appearance by Elliot The Bear, plus authors will take part in a range of activities from storytelling sessions to calligraphy workshops.