After bagging tickets to the much-in-demand Time Travel dinner at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, I waited with glee like a child at Christmas. And when the clock finally struck seven on the Friday night and I walked along with hordes of people dressed in their best to the venue at the InterContinental, Dubai Festival City, I craned my neck, various books in hand ready for signings, hoping to catch a glimpse of some of my favourite authors. This is what it must feel like to be a first-timer at the Oscars, my friend whispered to me.
And it didn’t fall short of my expectations. After various sessions, arguments, workshops and book signings throughout the day, writers, literary agents and enthusiasts were getting together for a celebration that promised to remain stamped in time for many.
There was an author at each table - we sat next to Kate Lord Brown (who wrote the acclaimed historical fiction The Perfume Garden). There were tales from Anthony Horowitz who resurrected James Bond and Sherlock Holmes, House of Cards’s Michael Dobbs and comedian and World of Norm author Jonathan Meres to accompany each of the three delicious courses. And there was some superb entertainment from the UAE’s very own a cappella group The Notables. In short, this was a dinner that was a feast for the mind as much as for the senses.
True to the name, each table was given the opportunity to create their own time capsule, where you could choose writers, foods, books and celebrities you’d want to preserve for posterity. Voices grew louder and gestures more vigorous as the table next to us debated whether Donald Trump needed to go in as a lesson for the future on how the world ended. They finally settled on Trump’s hair as an example of how the world was blinded. Everything from Nutella to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Rowling and Adele (yes, the actual people, frozen and preserved for the joy of the future) also made its way in.
But the highlight of the night for me had to be the clever task Horowitz set for guests, where each table was asked to guess the century that excerpts he read out from various books were written in. Meres and Dobbs followed with some captivating anecdotes that provoked much amusement. Between mouthfuls of lamb, saffron rice, cheese dumplings and something that looked like a clock for dessert, each table was then asked to guess the songs performed by The Notables, stirring up much debate and rounding up what was a thought-provoking yet fun-filled night.
As for Horowitz’s guess-the-century task? In a grand announcement at the end, he revealed how he had written all the excerpts sitting in his hotel room over the weekend.