SIBF 2020: Emirati and Spanish novelists discuss impact of chosen genre on writing

Fathiya Al Nimr and Alex Chico address the role of social media platforms
in driving a book’s popularity at Sharjah International Book Fair online session

Sharjah, November 12, 2020

In a virtual cultural dialogue session held at the ongoing 39th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), UAE writer Fathiya Al Nimr was in conversation with Spanish novelist Alex Chico to discuss how writers shift between fiction and nonfiction, and the challenges of doing so.

The virtual session formed part of a series dedicated to enhancing cross-cultural communication between Emirati writers and their international counterparts and was moderated by Eman Al Yousuf on the virtual ‘Sharjah Reads’ platform.

The session also addressed the role of social media platforms in generating new forms of ‘critical writing’ and opening a new window for the reader to forge a close relationship with the author.

Alex Chico, author of Los Cuerpos Partidos, pointed out that authors become obsessed with literary genres, and that although fiction and nonfiction share similar themes and concerns, the distinction is emphasised to catch the attention of the reader. He urged writers to blend different genres harmoniously, particularly when writing novels which offer the flexibility to accommodate a vivid imagination, and to encompass elements of poetry, history, nonfiction, and even science fiction. For example, the events could cover different eras, or be based on the concept of time travel, and a character may compose poetry, he added.

Chico said it is imagination that nurtures and supplements reality and gives the writer the freedom to address readers’ dreams and concerns without invading their privacy.

Discussing the role of social media on the cultural landscape, Chico stressed that online platforms are playing an integral role in diversifying critical writing, and with its ability to offer instant feedback, there is a marked shift in the way literary titles are embraced or rejected. A single tweet that takes few seconds to read can drive a certain book’s popularity, he said, adding that the critique should, however, be based on in-depth knowledge and thorough studies of literary criticism. 

Speaking at the session, Emirati novelist Fathiya Al Nimr noted that often, adopting elements of realism to create a work of fiction is the first option chosen by aspiring writers who are at the beginning of their careers. “Literary realism allows the writer to represent the subject matter truthfully through its narrative style of events and development of characters. Later, with the skills acquired from writing more books, authors tend to slip into ‘confessional literature’ blending reality with fiction, and slowly begin to bridge the gap and open new windows through fantasy,” she said.

Although the novel is the most dominant genre worldwide, she emphasised that she enjoys various genres of writing. She advised writers to write in genres they are skillful at without repeating their themes and ideas in subsequent works, and to be honest and authentic in their craft.

Describing herself as her fiercest critic, Al Nimr said that the number of modern literary criticism publications are small compared to the large volume of published literature. She emphasised that this is what drives authors and writers to develop skills and tools of self-criticism which are extremely important, especially for young writers.

Organised by Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), SIBF 2020 concludes on November 14. Being held under the theme, ‘The World Reads from Sharjah’, the 39th edition has adopted a fully digital format to host its cultural programme of 64 unique events, which are being streamed on SBA’s virtual platform over the 11 days of the fair. Register for upcoming discussions at  


1 – 2: images during the session

3- Fathiya Al Nimr

4- Alex Chico