This post is also available in: العربية

Applications for translation grants during the Publishers Conference that preceded the first day of the Sharjah International Book Fair were nearly 50% up on the same day last year, according to Sharjah Book Authority Chairman Ahmed Al Ameri.  “During the two days of the conference we had 2,600 applications,” he told Nasher.  “Last year we reached 1,600, but that was in February.  This year we were already nearly 50% up, and that was in two days.”

Such is the popularity of the scheme – established eight years ago to boost translations from foreign languages into Arabic and vice versa – Ameri said the fair is now discussing increasing the amount set aside for the grant from $300,000 to $400,000.  The fair is also considering the posibility of a literary agent category among the awards given during the opening ceremony of the fair.

Once again, the Chamber of Commerce was home to the fair’s famous ‘rights souk’ and matchmaking sessions this year, and the success of this initiative can be measured by how this ‘souk’ has expanded over the years.  It long ago spilled out of the single room it used to occupy and now swirls right around the open plan first floor and occupies some 450 tables.

This year’s edition of the fair, which wraps up this weekend, sees 1874 publishers from 77 countries, a number of which are exhibiting for the first time.  New countries include Argentina, Peru, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya and Bangladesh.  Among publishers, new faces attending the Publishers Conference included Jennifer Brehl, Senior Vice President, Executive Editor and Director of Editorial Development at William Morrow and Voyager; Professor Terri-ann White of the University of Western Australia; Arabic specialist Clare Roberts, Communications and Development Manager at Gingko; and Justin Ratcliffe, MD, Marketing, Publicity and Australian Publishing.

Ameri continued: “Last year we had 61 countries, this year we have 77.  I am so proud of the growth of the fair and I am so grateful to His Highness [Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, the Ruler of Sharjah] for the support he has given us.  We could not have done it without his backing.

Japan is country of honour this year and there are 14 authors and editors here, as well as more than 10 publishers.  Kanji Fujiki, Ambassador of Japan to the UAE, has noted the interest in manga (Japanese comics and graphic novels) among young Emiratis, and at the fair Japanese bookseller Kinokuniya had a large display of these titles.  The Japanese pavilion had something else too – something that you do not expect to see at a book fair: a tank containing three enormous Koi.  These were at the fair, courtesy of Koi Water Barn in Dubai, and caused gasps of surprise as people casually stopped at the stand and then noticed the shapes moving silently just beneath them.