The Hay Festival is the annual literary extravaganza, which sees the great and the good share their stories with the world. The festival programme is broad and exacting, covering some 600 writers and performers. In 2009, the Hay Festival was celebrated in Beirut with 39 writers from across the Arab diaspora as part of the City of Literature programme. It made the Hay team doubly sure that they wanted to find a new home for an Arabic Hay Festival to join the worldwide family in Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa. What started as a falling-in-love with stories told by a new generation of writers, has become a new Hay festival in Abu Dhabi that will bring together storytellers from across the Gulf, Morocco and Europe from February 25-28, 2020.
The superstars who’ll headline the slate will be led by the great Syrian poet, Adonis, who celebrates his 90th birthday with a gala reading with his fellow poets, including Bahraini poet and theatre maker Qassim Haddad. Lebanese novelist Hoda Barakat, who took the 2019 International Prize for Arabic Fiction for ‘The Night Mail’, will also be speaking at the event.
Several best writers of Arab heritage under 40, published a decade ago, will be returning to join the festival. Libyan academic and novelist Najwa Bin Shatwan will discuss her wide output, including novels, plays and collections of short stories. Her story The Sharp Bend at Al-Bakur won the ArabLit magazine Story Prize 2019. This is the most exciting time in living memory for contemporary Arabic Literature, and the festival will be a showcase for great writing from across the Arab world, a platform for inspiring voices from many languages, and a meeting place where the world of tomorrow might be shaped.
Words: Peter Florence