Is reading something you do because you enjoy it, or because you use it to reach somewhere? Would literary festivals help in growing the passion for reading?
With the somewhat loss of a literary culture and the replacement of that with more immediate past-times, there has been an elevation of literature, as if literature is now only for the elite. A career in literary studies is not commonly embarked upon here in the UAE, and one devoted to the study of literature entirely, rather than the writing of literature, is even more rare.
With this year being dedicated to all things reading, there will hopefully be a big change on not just the interest in literature, but also on seeing literature for more than just a tool towards something “better”. Living in a time where everything has become yet another tool to achieve something else, and where we are surrounded by words like “goals”, “dreams”, “ambitions”, “success”, it is no wonder that that seeps into the world of literature too. We have to give reasons for why literature is important, and why reading will help you. As if reading for the joy of reading was not enough in itself.
With the Emirates Airline Literature of Festival upon us, this is a good time to have a second look at why literature is important. There are skill-related benefits to it, no doubt. You would improve your language skills, your critical thinking skills, your openness to people, places, ideas, and thoughts. You would also improve your own writing, which is a big plus if you’re looking to succeed career-wise.
There are other uses too. Literature makes you seem intelligent, gives you an air of scholarliness, of course depending on how complicated is the book you are reading. It will also introduce you to more people with similar tastes in books, and help you understand a lot of literary references in TV shows and films. If you quote books, you are less likely to lose an argument, because book references have a hint of authenticity that websites do not.
These may all very well be sufficient reasons to want to pick up a book and read. But these are, in my opinion, all the wrong reasons to do that. If your interest in a hobby is because it offers you something else apart from its own enjoyment, then I think you have already stripped it of its value and made it ugly. Literature is no different from art; it is a way of life, to feel pleasure, understand beauty, and learn more about the truths of the world than reality seems to offer.
The most valuable reason to read a book is because you enjoy it, and then learn from it. Festivals like these remind you that there are so many different truths to be learnt, from so many different types of people, and in this complexity there is a whole world of joy to be found. Literature is not only for the elite, but it is also not for everyone. So if it is for you, even a little bit, then go to the festival and immerse yourself in a culture that is populated by people who read, only because they enjoy it.
Deenah Rashid (@Deena_Rashid_)
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