STA, 20 November - The 34th Slovenian Book Fair is getting under way at Ljubljana's Cankarjev Dom tonight, featuring more than a hundred publishers and 25,000 books, including 3,000 new titles. Hungary is the guest country.
For several years now the fair has been seeking to expand beyond its national character with a guest country and guest appearances by foreign authors.
The Slovenian Book Fair is an increasingly international event
This year it will welcome Man Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle, Goncourt Prize winner Marie NDiaye, Fulvio Tomizza Award laureate Mauro Covacich and Nepali poet Yuyutsu Ram Das Sharma.
After France, Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, Hungary will be in the spotlight, showcased through literature, film, music, dance and cuisine.
Zdravko Kafol, the head of the organising committee, says that the fair is not yet international, but that Ljubljana deserves to have an international book fair, especially now that it has been designated as UNESCO's City of Literature.
Talking with the STA ahead of the launch, Kafol said that the fair featured virtually the entire publishing industry in the country and most of the new titles and attracted more visitors than all other book events together.
The publishing sector has not yet broken out of the spiral of contraction. But while it represents only two thousandths of GDP, its symbolic value is much bigger, even though not appreciated, Kafol says.
One-in-four Slovenes functionally illiterate
Despite efforts by various stakeholders, 42% of Slovenians do not read and one out of four is functionally illiterate, while tax on book is one of the highest in the EU, Kafol noted.
This is why the fair has taken it upon itself to promote reading and buying books through various campaigns, such as this year's call to visitors: "Admission free, buy a book more instead!"
Kafol says the aim is to attract more young people, as well as leaders from all walks of life, in order to draw attention to the importance of books for the health of the individual and the country.
Running until Sunday, the fair will open with an address by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, which Kafol says indicates that the increasing importance that is being attached to books.
More than 300 events to choose from at the Slovenian Book Fair
The fair will see more than 300 accompanying events on seven stages, involving almost 1,000 participants from literary, cultural, social and media life as it strives to become a must-see event.
Among more than 100 authors hosted at the fair, several acclaimed guests from Slovenia will be celebrating their jubilees, including Drago Jančar, Ivo Svetina and Marjanca Jemec Božič.
Next year, the fair will focus on the Enlightenment, to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the deaths of two Slovenian representatives of the movement, Valentin Vodnik (1758-1819) and Žiga Zois (1747-1819). Instead of a guest country, the fair will play host to whole Europe.
The official website, in Slovene, is here