Emirates Airline Literature Festival: Avni Doshi inspires readers on Day 1 of much-awaited LitFest in Dubai

Picture retrieved from Avni Doshi/Instagram
Picture retrieved from Avni Doshi/Instagram

Dubai - Doshi gave the audience an insight into her influences and the extraordinary success of the novel.

By Saman Haaziq

Published: Fri 29 Jan 2021, 10:39 PM

Last updated: Sat 30 Jan 2021, 6:34 AM

This year’s Emirates Airline Literature Festival kicked off on a high note on Friday, as Booker Prize-nominee Avni Doshi took her fans, bibliophiles and aspiring writers into the world she created in her debut novel Burnt Sugar.

Ensconced comfortably in a beautiful outdoor setting of an amphitheatre stage, Doshi gave the audience an insight into her influences and the extraordinary success of the novel, which was shortlisted for the 2020 Booker Prize and is being translated into more than 20 languages.

Behind the stellar achievements, however, were all the emotions that took a toll on her while writing the book. “You can ask my husband, how has writing the book deformed me in some way,” Doshi revealed.

But then, that’s how it usually is when passion takes over, she pointed out. “All of these things that we do whether it be writing, visual art, making music and anything that consumes you and psychologically takes over, do take a kind of toll on us.”

Doshi’s talk was the one of the most sought-after sessions at this year’s LitFest. It was nearly sold out even before the festival began. It was an hour-long session where the novelist also read out excerpts from Burnt Sugar, taking her audience into its critically acclaimed ‘feverish prose’ and visceral portrayal of a toxic mother-daughter relationship.

In a literary conversation, Doshi also discussed her success in winning the Tibor Jones South Asia prize and the lengthy redrafting process, during which she travelled between India, the US and the UAE, followed by competition among publishers to get the rights to the finished novel.

Besides Doshi’s talk, several other literary conversations, poetry workshops, storytelling, and lots of books packed the opening day of the literature festival.

The event saw complete compliance with all Covid-19 safety measures, with both mask-wearing and physical distancing strictly observed.

The day also saw a number of exhibition tours, both in English and Arabic, at the Jameel Arts Centre. A special walking talk tour titled ‘Age of You’ with curator Shumon Basar, while another similar tour was held with distinguished librarian and avid collector David Hirsch.

The evening concluded with a session with avid collector and archivist Camil Karam, who delved into his practice of collecting rare publications and prints from across the Arab world.

The festival will continue at Jameel Arts Centre today before moving to the InterContinental Dubai Festival City (February 4-6) and Alserkal Avenue (February 12-13).


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