JEDDAH – After being bogged down for over a decade, the Saudi Literary Conference has come back to life stronger and enjoying more appreciation and recognition with the patronage of King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
The conference, held from Dec. 14-17 at King Fahd Cultural Center in Riyadh, will be inaugurated by Abdulaziz Khoja, Minister of Culture and Information, whose ministry has won the battle to be the sole responsible government body for organizing it.
The conference has come to reinvigorate the life of this conference which first started in 1974 at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah and then in 1998 at Umm Al-Qura University in Makkah. Only two conferences on Saudi literature in 35 years. Both universities published the proceedings of both conferences.
The Jeddah Literary Club in 1998, however, said it would organize the following 3rd conference, but the sudden death of Prince Faisal Bin Fahd, then President of Youth Welfare in 1999, had brought the move to a halt.
In the past three years, two universities, King Saud University and Imam Muhammad Bin Saud University, sought to win the privilege of organizing this literary gathering, but their attempts were thwarted by the Ministry of Culture and Information which secured the Royal approval.
The participation of women in the 1974 conference was non-existent as women’s higher education was barely picking up steam at that time. In the 1998 conference, five women presented their papers and two were honored for their literary works: Suhaila Zein Al-Abideen and Thurayya Qabil.
This third conference, however, will be the real start of more organized and recognized literary movement in Saudi Arabia, critics say. And in the 2009 conference, women participants are more visible with up to 25 percent of approved papers and also in the organizing committee.
Although the Ministry of Culture and Information has successfully obtained the privilege of organizing the conference that was once taken by universities, participants are mainly coming from the academia.
The literary conference will be held every two years in different regions of the Kingdom as approved by higher authorities, said Abdulaziz Al-Subayyil, Deputy Minister of Culture and Information for Cultural Affairs.
Al-Subayyil, who is also the chairman of the conference, said that the organizing committee has received 85 papers and approved 50. Literary clubs in the Kingdom have been sent 15 invites each, he said, with an expected audience of over 500 literature lovers who will also enjoy a book fair featuring Saudi literature.
Al-Subayyil announced the names of ten Saudi literary authors to be honored at the conference. The ten writers have been selected on the basis of their publications since 1985. The conference will be concluded with a poetic evening entitled “The nation in the eyes of poets” in which 20 male and female poets will participate.
Al-Subayyil pointed out the themes of the conference will focus on literature and national affiliation, literature and tolerance, literature and cultural institutions, literature and educational curricula, literature and mass media, criticism studies, translated Saudi literature and electronic creativity.
The method of selection of winners of national literary prizes has been submitted to higher authorities for approval, Al-Subayyil said. – SG