Islands in ocean of books
[b]Minsk successfully hosts 17th International Book Fair — Books of Belarus-2010[/b]The BelEXPO National Exhibition Centre’s book fair has welcomed entries from 26 countries — including Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Israel, Iran, the USA, Cuba and Venezuela. The five day event was led by France — as the exhibition’s honourable guest. Russia, Ukraine, Israel and Kazakhstan have had the honour previously at the fair, which has been organised annually since 1993. The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Belarus, H.E. Mr. Michel Raineri, noted that the Minsk exhibition is the first cultural event to be held since the January signing of a Belarusian-French agreement on co-operation in the field of culture, education, science, technology and media.
The BelEXPO National Exhibition Centre’s book fair has welcomed entries from 26 countries — including Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Israel, Iran, the USA, Cuba and Venezuela. The five day event was led by France — as the exhibition’s honourable guest. Russia, Ukraine, Israel and Kazakhstan have had the honour previously at the fair, which has been organised annually since 1993. The Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Belarus, H.E. Mr. Michel Raineri, noted that the Minsk exhibition is the first cultural event to be held since the January signing of a Belarusian-French agreement on co-operation in the field of culture, education, science, technology and media.
“Similar forums are organised worldwide, bringing together publishers and readers — whom the industry is targeting,” notes Belarus’ Information Minister, Oleg Proleskovsky. “This year’s exposition has been unusual — especially in its number of participants. There were 619 exhibits on show, showing that we are striving to expand the information space and strengthen intercultural and international ties. There are no borders or language barriers in this process.”
Who took part this year? Among the exhibits were culinary encyclopaedias, tourist guides, children’s story and colouring books, maps, medical reference texts and works of fiction. Historical, military and scientific books were also on display. Not only the contents of books but their designs attracted attention. Among the most interesting editions were serious encyclopaedias by Kazhan art studio (styled to look old), Mikhail Bakumenko’s handwritten 16kg Tracking Belarusian Treasures and fantastically decorated small, handwritten books by Yuri Malash, which detail Belarusian legacy, history and cultural treasures.
There was a veritable ocean of books but individual ‘islands’ stood out. It was impossible to pass the Korean stand without trying the ancient craft of character writing. Meanwhile, the Belarusian Encyclopaedia Publishing House wafted alluring aromas as it cooked Belarusian dishes from the culinary books showcased on its stand. The Venezuelans encouraged visitors to try playing their marakas (like a rattle) while Israeli artist Irena Obolski offered master classes in parchment creation, following ancient Jewish traditions. Meanwhile, the Encyclopaedics’ stand included genealogy editions which enabled us to learn whether we are related to Polish gentry or nobility.
France’s stand had wonderful attractions as well. With its honourable guest status, it had the opportunity to showcase many books by French authors in the original language, as well as those in Russian and Belarusian. Among them was young Christian Garcin’s Le Vol Du Pigeon Voyageur, translated into Russian by Belarusian Makbel Publishing House. Colourful French albums on arts and gastronomy also drew much interest, alongside textbooks and country guides. Moreover, literary meetings and autograph-sessions with French writers were organised. There was even a raffle to win tickets for Patricia Kaas’ concert in Minsk.
Of course, the hosts of the fair — Belarusian publishing houses — had much to offer and surprise us with, such as a 5kg copy of the Slutsk Gospel, presented by the Belarusian Exarchate’s Publishing House. The original is a unique, handwritten 16th century document — one of the country’s greatest Orthodox relics. It was thought lost after WWII but was miraculously returned early in the 21st century. The edition is almost an exact copy of that ancient handwritten monument, with titles, first letters and headings following the original design — in cinnabar and gold. Remarkably, the first ever copy of this unique book was presented by President Lukashenko to the Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia, Kirill. The Belarusian Exarchate has already begun restoration of another rare gospel — that of Polotsk, which was written 400 years after that of Slutsk.
Mastatskaya Litaratura’s stand boasted some editions newly published in 2010, such as books by Victor Pravdin, Victor Gordey and Slavomir Antonovich. The Napoleon Orda: Path to the Homeland edition was also on show; it won the Grand Prix at Moscow’s 6th International Book Art CIS Contest.
The Belarusian Encyclopaedia’s stand was the most popular, owing to its many-volume editions — such as Belarus’ Nature, Belarus’ Architecture and Encyclopaedias for Schoolchildren and Students. Additionally, there were many people wishing to purchase the Grand Duchy of Lithuania encyclopaedia. The latter was initially planned as a two-volume book but so much information was collected that a third volume was published. It goes on sale in a month’s time.
This literary harbour was filled with talented captains, steering their intellectual vessels. Among them were Belarusian writers Nikolay Cherginets, Naum Galperovich, Vladimir Lipsky and Victor Gordey, in addition to Russian Mikhail Veller, Israeli writer and journalist Mark Golesnik and French authors Anne-Marie Pol and Pierre Corneille. They generously devoted time, words and autographs to their readers.
“I’d love to see such shows take place more often. People come here not only for entertainment but to find books — food for brains. You can see them thinking, their eyes lighting up, with smiles on their faces. It’s wonderful! Moreover, the fair provides a good opportunity for writers and poets to meet their target audience — lovers of their art,” stresses Belarusian Union of Artists member Alexander Galkevich.
Such expositions always achieve their aim, bringing important contacts and giving birth to interesting publishing projects. They facilitate the exchange of international experience in the field of book publishing and distribution while delighting book lovers. There is no doubt that next year’s fair will be no less fascinating. Germany is expected to be the honourable captain at the 18th Minsk International Book Fair.
By Lyudmila Minkevich