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Publishers, organizers seek ‘variety’
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BEIRUT: Organizers are gearing up to take part in the 57th edition of the Beirut International Arab Book Fair, with publishers promising to offer up a variety of work – from fiction titles and poetry to political analyses and social science studies. Organized by the Arab Cultural Club and the Union of Publishers in Lebanon, the event, which launches Friday, will host works and authors from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait, Algeria, Morocco and Palestine.

Over 200 Lebanese publishers and 60-odd more from the rest of the Arab world are expected to participate in the fair, which will stage over 150 book-signing ceremonies over its 14 days.

“Unlike previous years Al-Adab is trying to deviate a bit from presenting only fiction titles and is offering a variety of literary genres,” says Samah Idriss, of Dar al-Adab Publishing House, which specializes in works of fiction.

Idriss himself will be on site Saturday, signing his new novel for teens, “Behind Closed Doors,” about adolescents and the relationships they conduct through social media, and particularly Facebook.

Among the new poetry titles Al-Adab will feature at the fair are “Butterflies for Judah’s smiles,” by Chawki Bzeih, and “Wind Sliders,” by Mohammad Ali Shameseddine.

A panel about Shameseddine’s work will be held Tuesday, featuring Zahida Darwish, Iskandar Habash and Abdel-Kader al-Hosni.

In addition to poetry, Al-Adab will launch a number of scholarly studies, like “The Theatre of Arabs” by Abido Bsaha; Najlaa Khoury’s “Stories and Stories” and Bassem Raad’s “The Hidden History” are both Palestine studies.

Al-Adab hasn’t forgotten its fiction-writers, and will use the fair as a platform to promote “The story of Safiya,” Kuwaiti author Leila al-Othman’s true-life story of an inmate that the author met in 1976, whose story she promised she would write.

Syrian novelist Khaled Khalifa, author of the controversial “In Praise of Hatred,” will be signing his new novel “No Knives in this City’s Kitchens” Sunday. Told from the perspective of a middle class family, the novel compares Aleppo before the rise of the Baath with the state of the city since then.

Launched just last year, Difaf Publishing House has already published over 120 titles. The publisher will present a variety of fiction titles in the fair.

“There is a growing interest in novels,” said Difaf owner Bashar Chebaro. “Readers are requesting more fiction, less poetry as well as studies on the changes in the Arab world and even humanist studies.”

Difaf offers a number of titles it co-published with publishing houses in Morocco, Algeria and Iraq. Among this year’s titles is Maya al-Hajj’s “Borkini” (Confessions of a Veiled Woman), a novel that questions how a muhajiba looks at her body, and how others see it.

Other Difaf titles include “My Father’s Room,” Abdo Wazen’s biographical novel that details the lives of the author and his late father. As the author barely knew his dad, he relies upon the stories and memories of those that did know him.

Difaf will also promote Mahmoud Hujeiri’s “The Birds of Desire” and Lina Huyan Hasan’s “Nazek Khanum” as well as the poetry collection penned by Saudi Information Minister Abdel-Aziz Khoja.

Al-Saqi Books will promote “I, the undersigned,” by Eva Marsheliaan, a dialogue between the author and Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.

The conversation depicts the poet’s and journalist’s growing friendship, and the several gatherings and discussions they shared on various topics, including how Darwish became a poet.

Joumana Haddad is launching Al-Saqi’s Arabic translation of “Superman is an Arab,” her sequel to “I Killed Scheherazade,” in which the author examines the patriarchal system that continues to dominate in the Arab world and beyond.

Scheduled for Saturday, Haddad’s book signing will include poetry readings by Haddad and Lebanese actor Rafiq Ali Ahmad, accompanied by pianist Walid Msallaem as well as a performance by vocalist Ghada Shubeir.

Al-Saqi will also display works by such renowned novelists such as Rashid Daif, Jabbour Duwaihy, Abbas Beydoun and Hala Kawtharani.

Malik’s books and Librarie Antoine are also taking part in this year’s fair, and are making French- and English-language books available on the exhibition floor.

At their stand near the exhibition entrance, Neel wa Furat Electronic Library will offer the search service, allowing readers to ask them to locate any title they seek within the fair.

Arab Scientific Publishers are showcasing a variety of non-fiction tiles, including Dr. Abbas Abu Saleh’s “The Contemporary History of the Druze Community,” Sheikh Sami Abu al-Mouna’s “Cultural Manifestations in the Druze community” as well as Ghazi Aridi’s essay collection “Arabs Between Change and Chaos.”

ASP is promoting a range of poetry titles, such as Hanan Rahimi’s “The Reap of The Rain” and Assad’s Thebian’s “The Absolute Amusement,” a book of poetry about place, time and human beings, and the poet’s yearning to escape them all.

ASP also has several children’s titles, including “Three Stories” by Najlaa Hamade.

Arab Cultural Club head Narmine Khansa told The Daily Star an assortment of parallel events had been scheduled to correspond with the exhibition – including an art exhibition, seminars and lectures on a wide range of topics, fiction and poetry readings along with ceremonies to honor writers.

“We are also hosting Spain,” she said, “as a guest.”

Other cultural activities scheduled to take place during the exhibition include a salute to late theater director Yaakoub Shedrawi and poetry readings by Lebanon’s Iskandar Habash and Morocco’s Adbel Latif Zein.

“Arab identity in a Foreign Language,” a panel about the works of author Amin Maalouf, featuring Alexander Najjar, Tanios Najm and Ahmad Bazoun, will also take place Thursday.

There will also be an exhibition of Palestinian films on Dec. 15, prior to a seminar – featuring Ibrahim Aris, Rana Nazih, Vicky Habib and Fajr Yaakoub – about the Palestinian woman in cinema.

Other side events include a concert by Spaniards Cesar Carazo and Eduardo Paniagua, who perform a concert of Andalusian and Flamenco music.

The Beirut International Arab Book Fair opens Friday at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure Center and continues until Dec. 16. The fair is open daily from 10 a.m. till 10 p.m.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 05, 2013, on page 16.
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