People of the bookBy HANNAH BROWN
Authors come out of their "shelves" for the Jerusalem International Book Fair.
Antonio Munoz Molina Photo: Wikimedia Commons/ Hpschaefer
Reports of the death of the book have been greatly exaggerated, and you can see literature thriving at the 26th Jerusalem International Book Fair, which will take place from February 10-15 at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem.
The fair, which is held every other year, will feature readings and appearances from a host of writers from all over the world. In all, more than 600 authors and publishers from 30 countries will attend, and over 100,000 books will be on display – most of them for sale. There will be panels, seminars and a “literary café” where writers will meet their readers. Best of all, the entire event is open to the public free of charge, although some events require advance registration.
The prestigious Jerusalem Prize will be awarded to acclaimed Spanish author Antonio Muñoz Molina.
The prize is given to an author whose work best expresses and promotes the idea of the “freedom of the individual in society.” Past winners have included Ian McEwan (at the last fair, in 2011), Haruki Murakami, Mario Vargas Llosa, Milan Kundera, Graham Greene, Eugene Ionesco, Jorge Luis Borges and Bertrand Russell.
Molina will accept his prize in a special ceremony.
He will also appear at the Literary Café, a setting in which authors speak on a particular topic but also have more informal meetings with book-fair attendees.
Molina will discuss his life, his work and his affinity for Judaism at the café on Monday, February 11, at 8 p.m. The café features discussions and meetings with authors from morning till night, Monday – Thursday.
This year’s guest list for the festival includes American author Nathan Englander, who has written quite a bit about the ultra-Orthodox community, in such shortstory collections as For the Relief of Unbearable Urges. His latest book, a collection of short stories called What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank has just been translated into Hebrew. The Hebrew edition will be published by Keter and will be in stores soon.
It’s a very literary season in Jerusalem. The book fair will follow the Kissufim Conference for Jewish Authors and Poets, which also features international and Israeli authors.
International authors attending the fair include Roy Jacobsen of Norway; Italian authors Cristina Comencini, Bruno Arpaia, Marco Ansaldo and Alessandro Baricco; French authors Philippe Labro, Tobie Nathan, Amelie Northomb, and Emmanuel Carrere; Judie Oron of Canada; Gyorgy Spiro, Gyorgy Dragoman, Gabor Schein and Geza Rohrig of Hungary; Varujan Vosganian and Vasile Ernu of Romania; and many others.
There will be a number of seminars on topics of literary interest. Leon Wieseltier of The New Republic will take part in the seminar “Books and Other Adult Pleasures – Literary Criticism Today.” He will be joined by Gregor Dotzauer of Der Tagesspiegel and Florence Noiville of Le Monde. Professor Sidra DeKoven Ezrahi of Israeli will moderate the panel.
There will also be a bloggers’ panel on this topic, called “literary criticism.com,” which will feature several bloggers from around the world, including Maud Newton and Mark Sarvas of the US, Naomi Alderman of the UK and Boaz Cohen of Israel.
Another seminar sure to be well-attended is “Selling Books in a Digital Age,” which will take place on February 12 at 10 a.m. The session will be in memory of Zev Birger, who was the director of the book fair for 30 years. Among the participants will be Anne Sternweiss of Random House/Germany and Jane Freidman of Open Roads Media in the US.
At the “Lost and Found in Translation” seminar, Israeli writers Zeruya Shalev and Etgar Keret will discuss their experiences with translators and publishers.
The festival is truly international, and many of the events, especially those sponsored by exhibitors, are not in English or Hebrew – but Russian- and Hungarian- speakers ought to be pleased at this year’s offerings.
But there are many events in English and Hebrew, of course.
On Monday night at 7 p.m., there will be a reading from Love in Israel, an anthology of 65 stories in English by Israeli writers, published by Ang-Lit. Press. It will be followed by a discussion on writing English fiction in Israel.
Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of England will appear on a panel on Tuesday at 8 p.m. on the topic, “The Leader, the Rabbi & the Professor: Varieties of Jewish Leadership.”
Among the English/Hebrew events is a discussion on “Books about the Israeli Secret Service,” which should be of interest to anyone who has seen the documentary The Gatekeepers, which is nominated for an Oscar (on Tuesday at 7 p.m.).
There has been an Editorial Fellowship Program at the fair in which editors from all over the world attend the festival, and now a parallel program has been added for agents. The participants meet authors, publishers and editors at the book fair. The Editorial Fellowship Program was founded in 1985.