Feria Internacional del Libro de Buenos Aires 201510 September, 2015
The 41st Buenos Aires International Book Fair took place April 21 to May 11 at La Rural fairground and was opened by renowned playwright Roberto “Tito” Coss. There were 500 exhibitors, 4,000 publishing houses and an estimated 1.3 millions visitors to the fair this year.
International guests included multiple award-winning novelist and screenwriter John Banville (Ireland), journalist and fiction writer Rosa Montero (Spain), novelist Javier Cercas (Spain), writer Dan Wells (US), anthropologist Michele Petit (France), and journalist and historical novelist Arturo Perez Reverte (Spain) Dacia Maraini (Italy) Hector Abad Faciolince and Jorge Franco (Colombia).
The fair is the largest book fair in the Spanish-speaking world and despite the well placed information booths it is easy to get lost. This year’s guest city was Mexico City and a sprawling metropolis was reduced to a 370m2-stand. Elegant magenta banners hung from the roof and walls were made of cardboard images of Mexico’s most famous authors. A 10m-screen stood at one end of the stand and a bar which sold margaritas and Mexican food stood at the back. Presenters included writers, poets, storytellers, photographers, theatre directors and dancers. The Mexican writer Vicente Quirarte spoke about street life from the point of view of flâneur artists and read excerpts from his books of essays Elogio de la Calle, Enseres para Sobrevivir en la Ciudad, Peces del Aire Altísimo, and Los Días del Maestro and his poetry volumes Calle Nuestra, El Mar del Otro Lado and Ciudad de Seda. Carlos Fuentes once said that “Mexico is a city that challenges infinity.” The wide range of Mexican artists at the fair confirmed his statement.
There was a strong focus on e-reading and technology this year and there was a bloggers convention, a Book Tubers Meeting and a Poetry Slam event. At the well established Future Zone writers, film directors, designers, musicians and journalists took to the stage for 12 minutes each to share their influences and literary discoveries. Quizzes and contests like ‘Lecturas Argentines’ or ‘Quiero Ser el Book Tuber de la Feria’ (I Want to Be the Fair’s Book Tuber) reflected the importance of book reviewing on social networks.
Book signing lines at the fair were long but publishers were well organised and audiences members often had to collect their author signing vouchers hours before the actual event. Florencia Bonelli sold 3,000 copies of her latest novel Alma Negra in only one day and the crowds waited over seven hours to have their novel signed. 2015 was an election year in Argentina and political biographies and were present on almost every stand. The Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano passed away 10 days before the event opened was well represented and the first anniversary of the death of Gabriel García Márquez was commemorated with an an event hosted by Jaime Abello Banfi, Ezequiel Martínez and Gloria Rodriguez.
The French anthropologist Michele Petit talked about her most recent book Leer el Mundo: experiencias actuales de transmisión cultural and the complex reality of developing reading habits in children and teenagers. She argued that the experiences of cultural transmission is constantly multiplying, and that Latin American countries like Argentina are living proof of a reading culture that is always expanding. She told the audience that while she was preparing her talks she had imaginary conversations in her head with Argentine authors and education experts such as Graciela Montes and Mirta Colangelo.
Other popular events included a session titled ‘Three Writers, Three Styles, Three Friends’. The session featured Spanish journalist Rosa Montero (author of the thriller El Peso del Corazon), Argentine novelist Claudia Pineiro (author of the book Una Suerte Pequena) and local cartoonist and writer Maitena Burundarena author of (Lo Peor de Maitena). The event was coordinated by Jorgelina Nunez and the audience consisted almost entirely of women. Nunez started by asking the special guests about how daily pressures and the demands of the book industry effect their writing. Montero compared writing to carving stone and Pineiro explained that the long hours stuck in traffic jams on the Panamericana gives her time to think. The session ended with the writers speaking about the expectations that awards and other proofs of success can elicit. “I believe recognition affected my work as a cartoonist in a truly negative way, the absurd pressure of building a legacy some writers seem to acquire with age, and their worries about their futures as writers.” explained Maitena.
The young adult market is always popular at the book fair. At last years fair, thousands of teenagers waited hours to get their copies of Maze Runner signed by James Dasher. The publisher Siglo XXI sold endless copies of Eduardo Galeano’s latest book Mujeres (Women), while Cuspide sold titles, such as Las Venas Abiertas de America Latina (Open Veins of Latin America) and El Libro de los Abrazos (The Book of Embraces). The most popular book by publisher Del Nuevo Extreme was Zodiac by US writer Romina Russell, while the best selling item at El Ateneo bookstore was Mi Planta de Naranja Lima by Brazil’s José Mauro de Vasconcelos. Other popular authors at the fair included Megan Maxwell, Gabriel Rolon, Facundo Manes, Felipe Pigna, Cielo Latini and Tiffany Callegaris.
Buenos Aires Book Fair is a place for publishers, distributors, booksellers, literary agents, translators, illustrators, graphic designers and printers, educators and librarians to come together to learn more about the Latin American publishing industry. There are stands for both national and international publishing houses, countries, communities, Argentine provinces, and national and international institutions and organizations. It is organized by the Fundación El Libro, a non profit established by the Argentine Society of Writer and from May 1-3, librarians from all over the country came to buy books at a 50% discount as part of a government initiative of the Comision Nacional de Bibliotecas Populares (National Commission of the the Public Libraries). Argentinian authors like Jorge Luis Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Silvina Bullrich, Marco Denevi, Tomas Eloy Martinez, Roberto Fontanarrosa, Beatriz Guido, Manuel Mujica Lainez, Olga Orozco, Quino and Ernesto Sabato were all regular visitors to the fair.
Argentina is one of the most prolific book publishers in Latin America and there are over 102 rare and second-hand bookshops along Avenida Corrientes. From holes-in-the-wall to majestic buildings with latest releases the city has more bookstores per capita than any other major city in the world. Publishing experts have linked the country’s love for reading to its obsession with psychoanalysis. At bus stops, cafes and even trendy shopping malls there are people reading. Buenos Aires is a city dedicated to books. If you would like to experience it for yourself just spend an afternoon weaving your way through the masses at the fair next year.
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