Gold Quran and ‘world’s smallest’ Christian prayer book: Last chance to see rare titles as Sharjah International Book Fair ends on November 13

Austrian Publisher Aveda is showcasing the 'world's smallest' Christian prayer book at SIBF 2022 till Sunday
Austrian Publisher Aveda is showcasing the ‘world’s smallest’ Christian prayer book at SIBF 2022 till Sunday
Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: Visitors to the 41st Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) will have one more day on November 13 to enjoy the annual book event and see rare manuscripts, including Arabic-translated books, a 24-carat Quran, the world’s smallest Christian prayer book, and maritime maps from the 13th and 14th centuries.

Aveda, a publishing company based in Austria and a regular at SIBF since 2009, has been attracting visitors with a display of its manuscript production. Paul Struzl, managing director and publisher at Aveda, said: “We follow the same production process that the original manuscript is written. Apart from the paper used, everything remains the same. We do not use parchment paper – usually used for original manuscripts, as it undergoes an aging process and will begin to look differently with time.”

He added: “My grandfather started this venture after World War II to preserve manuscripts. Most manuscripts are behind display cases and hard for researchers to access. Reproducing original copies help both hobbyists and enthusiasts to enjoy the hands-on-experience of examining it closely.”

Stockholm-based Dar Al Muna Publishing is also at the fair displaying Scandinavian titles translated to Arabic. “Our operations are based in Sweden, including production. We have an exclusive collection of Arabic translations of the most prominent writers from the Nordic region, including Norwegian writer Jostein Gaarder and Swedish writer Jonas Jonasson,” said Heba Al Naddaf, manager and representative of Dar Al Muna Publishing.

Evergreen classics

In one of the literary sessions, Italian literary critic Domenico Scarpa and Egyptian novelist Mohaked Tawfik discussed the value of classics in the modern age. They said “classics are evergreen. They still enjoy enduring popularity today in the modern age”.

Domenico Scarpa and Mohaked Tawfik
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Scarpa took note of the classic children’s story, Pinocchio. He said: “It was the first great classic on which Italian writers such as Italo Calvino and Primo Levi based the foundations of their writing. Being part of the classics is about having roots in a culture, and these writers brought to the outside world an image of Italy that was not the stereotypical one.”

Tawfik said: “Classical literature is one that responds to the need for wisdom by humankind. It entails a great humanitarian power. Classics are works that have been liberated from the narrowness of time and moved forward. We cannot talk of the future without starting from the roots, and thus, without talking about the classics.”

‘Find your voice’

The breakout literary phenomenon and No.1 New York Times bestselling author Rupi Kaur traced her journey to becoming one of the world’s most renowned modern poets. She said: “I always felt like I had this deep desire to always connect and share with people, even as a child. Now I have a way to do it, which is through words.”

Rupi Kaur
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The Canadian creative of Indian origin also elaborated on her journey of accepting her identity and using it to fuel her work. She said: “Growing up in Canada, I had to deal with physically being so different from the majority. My parents were very much for preserving our Indian culture. I was a little bit of this and a little bit of that, and growing up simultaneously in two different worlds at home and outside was a disadvantage, I used to think. But when I turned 21, I had to shift that perspective, and transform it into something beautiful and empowering.”

“If you want to take the step to becoming a writer, do it, even if it may seem scary. Everybody’s path is so different. So, find your voice, find what works for you and don’t let anyone stop you and you will get there,” she underlined.

Comics and storytelling

Lincoln Peirce, the New York Times-bestselling author of the popular and hilarious Big Nate comic series, had a lively session with students, where he shared: “Copying in the world of creativity can be a good thing, as that is how one learns, as opposed to the stigma around copying other people’s work in school and academic life. My journey in the world of comics began in second and third grade when I started copying a bunch of Peanuts comics and created my own characters in fourth grade.”

Lincoln Peirce
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He added: “An aspiring comic creator also does not need exceptional artistic skills to become one. I noticed that Charles Schulz drew very simple hands on the Peanuts characters. They had no knuckles, fingernails or joints, which didn’t stop the cartoonist from telling great stories.

“Writing is the key to storytelling, and drawing is sort of a fringe benefit. I’d rather read the story with stick figures if it’s better than the one with graphic art. The art of creating comics is nothing but putting the right words and pictures together,” he added.

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Call of cinema

Noted South Indian actor Jayasurya shared his thoughts on cinema and his career spanning 100+ movies during a session titled ‘From the Stage to the Silver Screen: Jayasurya and his Career in Retrospect’.

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Three books, including Vellam, the movie adaptation of which earned Jayasurya his third Kerala State Best Actor Award, were recently released at SIBF

Discussing his collaboration with the writer/director for the award-winning movie, Jayasurya said: “If you are true friends at heart, beyond the roles you do behind the screens, you will end up having a beautiful piece of artwork. I think the biggest advantage that Prajesh (Sen) and I have is there is no ego between us and also there is no need to keep our guards up while spending time together. That helps a lot when working together.”

“Friendship without ego builds a strong foundation for creative work” shared Jayasurya, adding: “Viewers of Malayalam cinema dissect everything, from the actor’s performance to cinematography and editing, before they fully appreciate the cinema. I’m glad and grateful for the love they have showered on me for more than two decades now.

Creating characters

Filmmaker Prajesh Sen also interacted with the packed audience. He said: “Journalism is a career where one has to face multiple emotions within a short span of time, from reporting celebrity marriages to accidents to social issues. The emotional roller coaster that a journalist goes through is overwhelming and has helped me greatly while creating characters for my films. There will always be unpublished truths for anyone who pursues journalism honestly.”

Sen, who moved to filmmaking after a decade in investigative journalism, said that giving life to unsung legends of our time is what inspires him to be a filmmaker. He is set to do another biopic on Nambi Narayanan, an Indian aerospace scientist embroiled in a fake espionage case and was acquitted after several decades.