More than 500,000 eager book enthusiasts and others simply choosing to revel in the charged cultural ambience will pack the massive Expo Guadalajara events center as of Saturday, November 24, for the nine-day International Book Fair (FIL), the 32nd edition of an event that is now regarded as the world’s largest literary gathering.
Organized from the outset by the University of Guadalajara (UdG), the FIL — unlike most other book fairs — is aimed at both professionals and the general public. This year, the fair will draw around 200 literary agents, along with representatives of almost 2,000 publishing houses from 47 countries.
Since its beginnings, the fair has welcomed over eight million visitors and generated US$350 million in turnover for the city.
In total, more than 400,000 titles will be on display in Expo Guadalajara’s 34,000 square meters of space. Although mainly a Spanish-language literary fair, there will also be hundreds of English-language titles on display and for sale. A large international area features publishers from dozens of nations.
Aside from allowing professionals the chance to network, the FIL is also a major academic and cultural festival, with world famous authors and intellectuals taking part, many of them in book presentations, seminars and round-table discussions, most open to the public.
This year, Turkish Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk will open the Literary Salon, where he will receive the Carlos Fuentes medal and talk about his novel “The Red-Haired Woman” (Saturday, November 24, 5 p.m.).
Other celebrities include acclaimed Romanian poet, novelist, literary critic and essayist Mircea Cărtărescu, the recent winner of the Prix Formentor literary award (Wednesday, November 28, 6:30 p.m.).
At the fair’s inauguration at 10 a.m. on Saturday, November 24, 95-year-old Uruguayan poet Ida Vitale will receive the prestigious FIL Literary Award in Romantic Languages, a prize worth US$150,000.
Vitale played an important role in the Uruguayan art movement known as the “Generation of 45” and fled to Mexico City after a military junta took power in Uruguay in 1973. She currently resides in Austin, Texas.
The winner of the 2018 Premio de Literatura Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (for women writers) is Clara Usón (Barcelona, 1961), the author of “La Hija del Este,” the story of Ana Mladic, the daughter of Ratko Mladic, the former Bosnian Serb general during the Yugoslav Wars who was later found guilty of crimes against humanity.
Two other Nobel Prize winners will also grace FIL 2018, participating in scientific and academic panels. They are George F. Smoot, the U.S astrophysicist and cosmologist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2006 for his work on the “Cosmic Background Explorer” that helped further the Big Bang theory of the universe; and Mario Molina, the Mexican chemist known for his pivotal role in the discovery of the Antarctic ozone hole. He was a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1995.
Throughout the nine days, Guadalajara will be awash with book presentations, round-table discussions, conferences, awards, music, arts, cinema and theater, with special input from guest of honor Portugal.
More than 40 writers representing various Portuguese literary genres, ranging from noir fiction, poetry, essay, chronicles and short stories, will attend the fair. Portugal’s delegation will also showcase its music, dance, gastronomy, tourism and creative industries.
The invited nation’s pavilion is always a major attraction for visitors to the fair. Porcelain figures related to Portuguese authors and artists will be exhibited in the pavilion, as well as the famous lenços dos namorados (lovers’ handkerchiefs). It will also include a workshop where visitors can observe the creative processes of an artist working with porcelain and an embroiderer.
During this year’s event, the FIL will pay homage to Portuguese author José Saramago (1922-2010) in celebration of the 20th anniversary of his receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature. A presentation of a previously unpublished book by the famous author is also scheduled.
This year’s FIL Academic Forum comprises around 30 seminars, conferences and round-table discussions on a range of issues, including topical ones such as #MeToo, #FakeNews, Una Nueva Forma de Censura? (A new form of censorship?), Trolls y Bots al Ataque (Trolls and bots on the attack) and the Crisis of Democracy.
As well as noted Mexican intellectuals such as Enrique Krauze, Jesús Silva-Herzog Márquez and Jorge Castañeda, the Academic Forum will include the participation of U.S. non-fiction writer and policy analyst David Rieff, whose books have focused on issues of immigration, international conflict and humanitarianism; Jeffry Frieden, a professor of Government at Harvard University who specializes in the politics of international monetary and financial relations; and Catherine Hakim, a British sociologist who specializes in women’s issues.
The uninitiated should be aware that they will never be able to sample more than a miniscule portion of what the FIL has to offer. Those who are interested in the FIL’s myriad of cultural offerings should first consult fil.com.mx and start browsing (there is an English-language version). The fair prints a daily bulletin of all the day’s events, which is handed out free at the entrance.
The FIL takes place from Saturday, November 24 through Sunday, December 2. Open to the general public Monday, November 26 to Wednesday, November 28, from 5 to 9 p.m. (earlier hours for professionals only) and all other days 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Venue: Expo Guadalajara, corner of Avenida Mariano Otero and Avendia de las Rosas. General admission is 20 pesos (15 pesos children). Parking is available.
For reduced crowds, go early in the day. Free concerts (many with Portuguese artists performing) are held each evening 9 p.m. in the Foro Expo, at the entrance to the events center (see page 26 for details).