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Emirates LitFest announces 8 book launches, kicks off its 2024 edition

The festival will take place until Feb. 6 at Dubai Festival City's InterContinental Hotel. (ANJ)
The festival will take place until Feb. 6 at Dubai Festival City's InterContinental Hotel. (ANJ)
The festival will take place until Feb. 6 at Dubai Festival City's InterContinental Hotel. (ANJ)
The festival will take place until Feb. 6 at Dubai Festival City's InterContinental Hotel. (ANJ)
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02 Feb 2024 02:02:38 GMT9
02 Feb 2024 02:02:38 GMT9
  • Japanese author Toshikazu Kawaguchi will discuss his fourth book at the festival on Feb. 2 followed by a participation in a discussion on Feb. 4
  • Sultan Alneyadi, UAE’s Minister of Youth and Emirati astronaut who previously trained at JAXA, will launch his photobook at the festival on Feb. 3

Manar Elbaz

DUBAI: Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (Emirates LitFest) kicked off its 16th edition on Wednesday with a lineup of books set to be launched during the event, accompanied by an opening gala that featured speeches from acclaimed authors.

Emirates Literature Foundation (ELF Publishing), the publishing arm of Emirates LitFest, will launch a photobook by the recently appointed UAE’s Minister of Youth and Emirati astronaut, Sultan Alneyadi. He previously trained at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and became the first Arab to serve on the International Space Station (ISS) for a 6-month mission. 

His photo journal book, titled “Out of This World,” will showcase the beauty of the universe from the vantage point of the ISS, as well as his personal reflections and insights throughout his journey as an astronaut. Alneyadi’s book launch will take place on Feb. 3. 

ELF will launch seven other books, including a variety of children’s books as well as a poetry collection titled “The Girl of the Arabs” by renowned Emirati poet Ousha Al Suwaidi.

“When we launched ELF Publishing in 2022, our aim was to discover compelling narratives that are unique to this region that are relevant in the grand scheme of the world and the current times,” said Ahlam Bolooki, Managing Director of ELF Publishing and CEO of Emirates LitFest.

“With the launch of these new books, we iterate on our goal to support the local publishing industry and promote the voices of the local writers’ community,” she added. 

Ahlam Bolooki, Managing Director of ELF Publishing and CEO of Emirates LitFest, during the opening gala. (ANJ)

Moreover, the festival hosted an extraordinary opening gala night where they announced the nominees for the 2024 First Chapter Seddiqi Fellowship Program, the region’s only globally recognized writer fellowship, including writers like Mubeena Mohammed, Nadia Hussain, Omar Asfour, and Sharon Aruparayil. 

The nominees were handpicked by notable authors such as American author Curtis Sittenfield, writer of the New York bestseller Romantic Comedy, and Dubai-based author Avni Doshi, known for her book Burnt Sugar. 

The 2024 First Chapter Seddiqi nominees (ANJ)

The first speech of the night was from Emirati writer Amal Al Sahlawi as she recited one of her Arabic poems about her love for writing. Her short poem was followed by powerful speeches from Nigerian-British author Ben Okri, American poet Claudia Rankine, Kuwaiti novelist Saud Alsanousi, Palestinian-American writer Hala Alyan, and a musical performance by Ammar Ashkar

The opening, which was attended by diverse guests, such as Korean translator and author Anton Hur as well as content creator Deema Abu Naser, was received with a lot of praise.

Emirati poet Amal Al Sahlawi during the Emirates LitFest’s opening gala. (ANJ)

While some speeches were mainly in Arabic with no English translation, Hur told Arab News Japan that these were his favorite speeches. “It’s interesting to listen to literature when you don’t understand it,” he said. “It makes you realize how much of it relies on performance and the writer’s charisma.”

Hur, who has translated multiple Korean novels that gained international recognition, for example, Shin Kyung-Sook’s “I Went to See My Father” and Bora Chung’s short story collection “Cursed Bunny,” is also a huge reader of Japanese literature.

“I love Mieko Kawakami. Her work is pristine and provocative at the same time,” he shared with Arab News Japan, adding that his favorite novel by her is “All the Lovers in the Night.”

Meanwhile, Abu Naser, who is moderating Hur’s panel on Feb. 4, considers herself an avid reader. “I love to read, and I love literature, so a festival like this feels like home,” she told Arab News Japan.

She also shared that her favorite Japanese novel is international bestseller “Sweet Bean Paste” by Durian Sukegawa. “I felt really calm while reading it, so I enjoyed it a lot,” she said.


Furthermore, one of this year’s main speakers is the bestselling Japanese author Toshikazu Kawaguchi, writer of the “Before the Coffee Gets Cold” series, which follows several characters as they travel back in time before returning when their coffee gets cold.

This is the author’s second time at the festival, after his 2022 appearance. He will discuss his fourth book, “Before We Say Goodbye,” on Feb. 2 at 7 p.m. 

“Kawaguchi’s past session was remarkable,” Bolooki previously told Arab News Japan. “His books are on the best-seller list all over the world.”

“He loves the festival, and when he went back home the last time, he sent us a wonderful email to say that if he could go back in time (like the plot in his books), he would go back to tell his father about his trip to Dubai,” she added. 

Kawaguchi and Hur were both part of the George Town Literary Festival in 2022, where Hur attended the Japanese author’s panel. “He is very fun and I think the audience is really going to enjoy his panel (at Emirates Litfest), he told Arab News Japan

Kawaguchi will also be part of a discussion titled Shelf Portrait on Feb. 4 alongside international authors to discuss his bookshelf preferences. It will take place at 2 p.m.  

The festival will take place until Feb. 6 at Dubai Festival City’s InterContinental Hotel, with some events taking place at the Theatre of Digital Art. Tickets for panel discussions can be found on the Emirates LitFest’s website. 

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