ELF increases Arab author pages on Wikipedia, offers top books list
Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer
Emirates Literature Foundation’s (ELF) initiative, Kateb Maktub, has spearheaded the drive to increase the number of Arab author pages on Wikipedia in both Arabic and English, and reports a 516 per cent growth in the short span of one year. The initiative was launched in late 2020 with the goal to make information about Arab authors and literature easily available online. Its ambitious target is to multiply by ten the number of articles about Arab authors on the internet by December 2022.
The articles created give Arab authors a consolidated record of their achievements on Wikipedia, providing a credible reference point and discoverability for readers around the world. ELF and its volunteers are continuing to gather data and produce high quality, fact checked articles, with the initial aim to have 15,000 Arab authors pages on Wikipedia by December 2022. Kateb Maktub has created 12,150 articles, bringing the total number of Arab author profiles on Wikipedia to 13,650. (Numbers would have increased by now).
“Kateb Maktub is an ambitious project, but much needed. It builds on our enthusiasm for the Arabic language and Emirates Literature Foundation’s mission to support and nurture a love of literature in the UAE and across the region. “As a part of this mission, we want to help readers from around the world to discover the wealth of talented writers we have in the UAE and the wider Arab World,” said Ahlam Bolooki, Festival Director for Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (EAFL).
ELF is the governing body of EAFL, the UAE’s premier literary festival. “It has been very rewarding to witness the initiative’s success in in the short time since its launch and we have to remember the tremendous efforts of the contributors, volunteers and editors that made this success possible.” Ahlam added that “we all share a vision to put Arab authors and their great cultural contributions in the spotlight, positioning them on an equal platform with other major literary powers of the world.”
Kateb Maktub’s efforts and experience were the cornerstone for the Wikimedians of the UAE User Group, the first User Group to form in the GCC, which contributes to the initiative’s strategy of expanding online content to feature various aspects of life in the UAE and the region, such as arts, business, tourism, science, history, and more. The move is based on the belief that freely available information in Arabic is the foundation of a strong cultural economy.
The Kateb Maktub team has also called on avid readers interested in literature, traditional and digital publishers, and published authors, to sign on as volunteers and support the initiative’s goal to improve the position of Arabic literature in the digital world. ELF has also joined ISNI — International Standard Name Identifier — as a Registration Agency in January 2021. As a part of Kateb Maktub, the Foundation will be assigning ISNI to Arab authors. ISNI is a 16-digit number that is uniquely attributed to each author, and it is key to avoiding identity ambiguity online or offline, where names can be spelled differently, including in translation. Separately, ELF has published its top list of books for book clubs, from critics choices to readers’ favourites.
“All books on the list are guaranteed to spark conversations, stimulate debate and share new perspectives on the world around us,” says the Foundation. Bolooki said that “planning one of the world’s greatest literary festivals is like choosing books for a book club, hundreds of times. We are always looking for authors and conversations that will entertain, intrigue, and make us question the world around us.
“All the books on this list will do this and more, and best of all, once you have read the books, you can come to meet the author at the Emirates LitFest in February.” The creation of the list involved members of the Foundation team proposing and voting for the final books, which could be of any genre as long as they prompted new discussions and ideas.First on the list is Toshikazu Kawaguchi’s Before the Coffee Gets Cold — a time-travelling drama playing out in a small coffee shop in Tokyo. It is followed by David Grossman’s portrait of a comedian falling apart on stage in A Horse Walks into a Bar, full of poignant, upsetting moments.
The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett brings up weighty discussion points around identity, trauma, community and deceit, while horror fans can rejoice to see Stephen Graham Jones’ My Heart is a Chainsaw, which is no ordinary slasher: along with the bodies, existential questions also grow.
Saints & Misfits, SK Ali’s novel, explores faith, identity and assault and Felicia Yap’s debut novel Yesterday opens a can of worms with memory, social status and trust issues, all up for debate. My Best Friend’s Murder by former Dubai resident Polly Philips offers a deep dive on toxic friendships and envy. Philips was the winner of the Emirates LitFest Prize in 2019, then known as the Montegrappa Prize. All the listed authors will be speaking at EAFL, 3-13 February 2022, at the Al Habtoor City hotels.
The Festival is held with Founding Partners Emirates Airline and the Dubai Culture & Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), the Emirate’s dedicated authority for heritage, arts, and culture. ELF is a not-for-profit organisation which supports the love of literature in the UAE and the region, through a programme of varied cultural initiatives. EAFL is the Arab World’s largest celebration of the written and spoken word, featuring international and regional writers, poets, thinkers and speakers from around the world. Over the last 13 years, more than 1,700 authors from over one hundred countries have spoken at the Festival.
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