Newcomers to the region should not be awed by the Feria Internacional del Libro (FIL), Guadalajara’s annual book fair.
The event, which opens to visitors Saturday, November 25, is the second largest of its kind on earth, dwarfed only by the Frankfurt Book Fair, whose tradition spans over more than half a millennium.
No one should let the FIL’s fearsome size intimidate them away from one of the richest cultural and literary debates and exchanges in the world. And if even that sounds a bit overwhelming, remember that the FIL can be a great deal of fun for visitors of all ages.
Something for everyone
Created 31 years ago by the University of Guadalajara, the FIL is aimed at both professionals and the general public, a characteristic that sets it apart from other book fairs around the globe.
First and foremost, accept that you will never be able to sample more than a minuscule portion of what the FIL has to offer. More than 750,000 visitors, 1,900 publishing houses from 41 countries and 700 hours of programming over nine days are enough to drive visitors wanting to take in everything to the verge of a nervous breakdown. Keen literary types should spend as long as possible browsing the FIL’s program at fil.com.mx (start with the English-language version; for more detail, refer back to the Spanish language site).
But count yourself lucky if all you’d really like to do is happily wallow among hundreds of thousands of volumes – on every topic under the sun – both new and classic (in English and Spanish), browsing and shopping to your heart’s content. (Retirees take note: This is the place to pick up easy-to-read books for grandkids learning Spanish).
Throughout its nine-day duration, the fair envelops the cultural life of the city, with literary personalities, music, arts and cinema featured from the annual guest of honor, which this year is Madrid.
A central pavilion (“an agora filled with light,” is how designer Alberto Campo Baeza describes it) will showcase the Spanish capital’s literary and cultural jewels, while around 90 Madrileño authors will be brought to Guadalajara from the mother country. An art exhibit, “Pongamos que hablo de Madrid,” will show at the Instituto Cultural Cabañas, and another is up at the Museo de las Artes. A film series is set to run at the Cineforo, and a selection of Madrid’s finest musicians and dancers are billed on the performing arts agenda.
The humongous fair will welcome more than 700 authors from 41 nations, including steller names from Mexico, Latin America and the rest of the world, such as Paul Auster, Abdul Hadi Sadoun, Dan Wells, Elena Poniatowska, Enrique Krause and Arturo Pérez-Reverte. Many of these writers will present new works, while others will participate in round-table discussions in the Literary Salon, most of which are open to the public (see website for further details).
Auster, considered one of the United States’ most influential contemporary novelists, will present his latest work, “4321,” which was nominated for this year’s Booker Prize. Auster will speak at the opening of this year’s Literary Salon, Sunday, November 26, 12:30 p.m.
Wells, an horror and science fiction writer from Utah, won plaudits for his 2009 debut work “I Am Not a Serial Killer,” and followed up that success with a series of best-selling works. He will present his latest novel, “Bluescreen” on Friday, December 1, 4 p.m.
Other interesting presentations include the posthumous publication of the work “La trompetilla acústica” by British/Mexican artist Leonora Carrington (November 27, 6 p.m.), and “How to Transform Your Life” by well-known Buddhist monk, meditation teacher, scholar and author Gueshe Kelsang Gyatso (December 1, 7:30 p.m.).
Meanwhile, FIL’s Festival de las Letras Europeas will highlight 18 authors from eight European nations. And, for the first time, this year’s fair features a cycle of gay literature.
Literary luminaries, Paul Auster of the United States and Elena Poniatowska of Mexico, head the list of 700 authors who will participate in this year’s International Book Fair.
Kids are never forgotten at the FIL with more than 1,500 different activities provided throughout the nine-day binge. On offer are an extensive variety of daily workshops in three age categories, storytelling, puppets, theater, music, clowns and more (see website for further details).
Although business is one of its main goals, FIL is also a cultural festival and a forum for the academic discussion of the major issues of the time.
In the academic realm, the FIL will summon many of today’s top thinkers to take part in forums and conferences on migration, international relations, humanism, democratic culture, inequality, cultural journalism, border security, human rights, educational reform and other issues.
Annual academic meetings are held on the teaching of foreign languages, gender studies, indigenous language writing, geographic information technology and philological research, among other topics.
Each evening, around 9 p.m. when the fair closes for the day, free concerts are held in the performance space located directly in front of the Expo. A mix of Madrileño and Mexican artists – mostly musicians and dancers – are scheduled to perform.
When & where
The 31st FIL takes place from Saturday, November 25 through Sunday, December 3. Open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily – except Monday, November 27 to Wednesday, November 29, when the general public will be admitted from 5 to 9 p.m. (the earlier hours are for professionals only). On Friday, December 1, the FIL stays open to 11 p.m.
Location: Expo Guadalajara, corner of Av. Mariano Otero and Av. de las Rosas. Admission is 20 pesos for adults, 15 for children. Parking is available. For more information visit www.fil.com.mx.