23 February 2009

Havana Book Fair '09: To Read Is To Grow

The 18th International Book Fair in Havana, Cuba, ended on 22 February with some 600,000 Cubans and foreigners attending and 1.2 million books sold. A prominent fixture of Cuban cultural life since the Eighties, the book fair is more than a selling orgy. It has as its motto, ‘To read is to grow’.

More than 80% of those who attended the fair participated in one of the many presentations, lectures or events. There were special events for children. The San Carlos de la CabaƱa fortress was the venue for the fair with the Tres Reyes del Morro castle serving as a store selling books and handicrafts from different countries.

A thousand Cuban and foreign authors presented their books and participated in the events. The Havana book fair’s fame has spread throughout Latin America. 43 nations were represented this year, including 165 Cuban exhibitors and 183 from other nations, as well as 266 publishing houses. This year’s fair was dedicated to Chile and President Bachelet inaugurated it along with Cuban Raul Castro. There were homage musicals to Violeta Parra and Victor Jara, emblematic Chilean musicians. Next year’s book fair theme is Russia.

Before the fair itself started on 12 February, 46 book stores in Havana were offering some 200 new titles and the book fair is taken to all manner of events, including agricultural fairs. After curtains at Havana, the fair moves to 16 other Cuban cities in the provinces and concludes at Santiago de Cuba on 8 March. That about 90% of the new books published in Cuba are by Cuban authors must surely have something to do with the book fair.

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