Friday 21 March 2014


French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault was just one of the thousands of guests at the official opening of the Paris Salon du Livre (Book Fair) on March 20, proving that the predicted death of books is still a long way off.

Books on display at the Argentinian pavilion.
The annual event welcomed some 197,000 visitors last year, says spokesperson Daphnée Gravelat, and a similar or higher number is expected this year, as the Salon features writers from South America, Africa, the Caribbean, Asia and other regions.

Numerous authors will be giving readings, speaking with fans, participating in panel discussions and presenting their latest works over the next four days. The country of honour at this 34th edition of the fair is Argentina, with 46 writers from the Latin American country attending.

“Visitors to the fair can take stock of the vitality and diversity of Argentina’s contemporary literary production, which is at the same time widespread, inventive and poetic,” the organizers say.

They are using the occasion to “fêter” the 100th anniversary of the birth of Julio Cortázar, the highly influential Argentinean writer who spent many years in Paris, where he died in 1984. Visitors can learn more about the writer through a special exhibition at the fair on his life and work.

The African pavilion with bookseller Ruth Ntsiente
Literature by African writers is being highlighted as well, with a strong presence particularly of those who in write in French. They include Léonora Miano and Calixthe Beyala, both prize-winning authors born in Cameroon and now based in France; the controversial French-Congolese writer Alain Mabanckou; and diplomat-author Henri Lopes, a former prime minister of the Republic of the Congo.

Many of the authors will meet the public at the pavilion titled “Livres et auteurs du Bassin du Congo” (Books and Writers of the Congo Basin), where a live band and traditionally dressed hostesses greeted literature fans on opening night.

Through individual publishers, the Caribbean is being represented by writers such as the prize-winning novelist and poet Olive Senior, who has just had a bi-lingual poetry collection published in France - Un pipiri m'a dit/ A little bird told me - which she will present on Saturday.

Senior, whose books of short stories have also been translated into French, said she was delighted to attend the Salon for the first time. She said she supported plans by SWAN’s editor and fellow Jamaican writer Alecia McKenzie to try to organize a Caribbean pavilion there in the future.
Senior (l.) at the Salon with publisher Marc Torralba
 and  Christine Raguet (translator of an earlier book)

For those who love comic books, some of the top Japanese Mangakas (cartoonists) are on hand during the weekend, at the huge section of the fair devoted to the genre. Fans will be able to rub shoulders with Kaoru Mori and Kaori Yuki, the respective authors of A Bride’s Story and Angel Sanctuary.

They will be joined by several Chinese artists, illustrators and writers as the Salon du Livre has named booming, vibrant Shanghai the “city of honour” this year.