Anticipating LitFest

We’ve been browsing the newly released schedule for the upcoming Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature, and as always there are some major attractions.

First impressions: the Arabic programme looks great, broader than in past years. There’s a lot of accessible science, maths and tech. And there seems to be a good selection of workshops and masterclasses – if you’re getting started as a writer, honing your skills (especially as a novelist), or looking for information about pitching to agents and publishers, there may well be something for you in the programme.

We’ll be doing our usual ‘must-see’ lists in the new year, but right now we’re homing in on a few of the names that caught the eye:

Rana Dajani: The Biology of Friendship

Dajani, an expert in molecular genetics, metabolic syndrome and induced pluripotent stem cells, is one of the world’s leading female Muslim scientists. She’s also an excellent communicator …

Kate Mosse & Manu S. Pillai: Women in History

Bestselling novelist Kate Mosse (right) founded the #WomanInHistory campaign and her latest book Warrior Queens & Quiet Revolutionaries: How Women (Also) Built the World is just marvellous. She talks with Manu Sillai, popular historian of India’s past. (Kate Mosse is also doing a masterclass with her playwright-turned novelist husband Greg Mosse on writing “dazzling” dialogue; book early for that one!)

Jacks Thomas: Survival of the Fittest

More than 25 years’ experience in top publishing roles (and 10 years of appearances in the Top 100 Influential People in Publishing list) makes Jacks Thomas a good pick for this keynote to kick off LitFest’s Publishing Day. It’s subtitled ‘opportunities and challenges for publishing’.

Maggie Aderin-Pocock: Am I Made of Stardust?

An effervescent personality and an inspiring communicator, Dr Aderin-Pocock is a space scientist who is the current President of the British Science Association. This session is subtitled ‘big questions for young scientists’ and should be a lot of fun – shame it’s pitched at 8-12 year olds (it’s a long while since magpie qualified) but at least she’s doing it twice at the Festival.

Brian Cox: Shakespeare, Success & Succession

The actor (right) tells a rags-to-riches tale, from a troubled, working-class Scottish upbringing to becoming a near-legend of screen and stage. He’s a great anecdotalist, too, with a fund of stories and a wry, self-deprecating way of delivering them.

Ali Al Saloom & Giovanni Bozzetti: Emirates – Nothing Is Impossible

Practical advice on how to be mindful of cultural practices and values when dealing with nationals in professional and personal contexts, from Ali Al Saloom (who’s made this his business for some years) and Prof Giovanni Bozzeti (ditto – he’s the founder of EFG Consulting, which supports companies in dealing with the UAE).

Manu S. Pillai & Shrabani Basu: Decolonising Indian History

Two bestselling writers on Indian history point out how so much of the subcontinent’s story is seen through a Western, imperialist lens. What and how should we be reading to understand the bigger picture?

Zeina Hashem Beck: O

The noted Lebanese poet (and sometime Dubai resident) has long been a magpie favourite: “We sit here we fix the sea / with our eyes and it does not / fight back, it is wide and clear enough / to embrace our talk our illusions …” O is her third full-length poetry collection, and she’s talking about it with local poet Danabelle Gutierrez.

Alexander McCall Smith, Cecelia Ahern, Faye Brann & Sudha Murty: Letters To Old Friends

An impressive collection of wordsmiths and storytellers (that’s McCall Smith on the right) write a letter to an old friend, tell us why, and discuss the rapidly declining art of letter writing.

Harry Baker & Marcus Du Sautoy: Measure For Measure – Shakespeare vs Pythagoras?

Harry Baker is a British spoken word artist – World Slam Poetry Champ, in fact – whose second collection, Unashamed, proves maths and poetry can co-exist. Marcus du Sautoy is a professor of mathematics at Oxford, Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science there, and author of several popular books on maths and science. Two big brains who happen to be terrific communicators on the same stage; what’s not to like?

LitFest takes place 1-6 February at the Intercontinental Festival City as usual, with the other venue this year being the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library across the Creek, The two are connected by an abra service across the water, which should add to the fun.

Full ticket prices start at AED 25, for the education programme, but most tickets are AED 60 for a single session. New this year are day-long, weekend, student and publishing day passes starting at AED 199 plus an all-access pass at AED 3,499, which gets you into every single session (including those that run concurrently) and the authors’ Green Room. The Weekender at AED 499 looks more more doable …)

Incidentally there’s a 15 percent discount on all tickets and passes booked up to 15 December, which might help.

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