29th TIBF:Stop Stalling, Start Reading Caspian geography and anthropology
29th TIBF: ‘Stop Stalling, Start Reading!’
The 29th edition of Tehran International Book Fair with the slogan “Tomorrow Is Too Late to Read” ran from May 4 to 14, 2016 at the Shahr-e Aftab International Exhibition Complex.
Publishers from over 60 countries including Russia, Germany, Italy, China, Sweden, Lebanon, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Belgium and Syria displayed their works on 7,000 stalls and booths to the Iranian booklovers in various fields of humanities, arts, engineering, science, medicine and reference.
This year’s edition honored Russia as its special guest, a country whose relations with Iran date back to the 16th century, and which has stood firm alongside Iran in all areas of cooperation from economic, political and security to cultural, tourism and scientific. Iranians are well-informed about Russia, and the Russian language courses in Iranian universities are vastly popular. Russian literature, especially the classical one, is loved and admired by a large population of Iranian bibliophiles. Almost everyone here has read or knows about ‘The Three Musketeers’, or ‘Crime and Punishment’ or ‘Anna Karenina’, all of which among President Putin’s favorite titles.
Tehran was the guest of honor for Moscow’s 2015 International Book Fair, and it was now time for Iran to return the favor. Seeing as how Russia’s contemporary literature had been neglected for the most part, overshadowed by the brilliant bulk of its classics, the 2016 TIBF served as a golden opportunity for Russia to introduce its most recent publications to the Iranian public. The Eurasian country participated in this year’s TIBF with over 1200 titles from 50 publishers, and its delegation consisted of 35 cultural figures including Alexey Varlamov, Viktor Yerofeev, Kanta Ibragimov, Farit Nagimov, Guzel Yakhina, Yelena Usachyova, Aliyona Karimova, Nazim Zeynalov, as well as Russian publishers, journalists and book distributors.
Sergey Kaykin, Head of Russia's International Book Exhibitions and Fairs, was the organizer of “Books from Russia” Russian National Stand in the 29th TIBF, which showcased snippets of Russian culture and science, education and fine arts, architecture and tourism through the prism of book publishing industry.
What marked a major difference in this year’s edition of the book fair compared to last years was the change of venue. Iranian book hunters had become accustomed to making a trip to Imam Khomeini Mosalla located in north-central neighborhood of Tehran, but this year, they were to make a rather long journey to a new location, Shahre Aftab, a newly-constructed fairground in southern Tehran. The organizers were concerned that publishers would not turn up and publishers were concerned that visitors would not turn up, but everyone was in for a big surprise as the 29th TIBF received millions of visitors during its 11-day run.
According to Abbas Salehi, the director of the 29th TIBF, one of the major concerns of the publishers and people of culture about the relocation of the fair venue was the possible decline in number of visitors and costumers; “fortunately, with the tremendous help from the media, everyone was taken aback by the visit of millions of people to the fair,” Salehi said, adding, “this enthusiastic reception showed that the Iranian community has a unique cultural habit which is the mark of a culture-friendly society.”
1518 general publishers, 559 academic publishers, 145 educational, and 342 children publishing houses helped promote the cultural atmosphere of the country by their participation in Tehran Book Fair.
Another special feature of this year’s fair was the particular attention given to its international aspect. According to Salehi, the international section of the fair was more active this year than ever before, and foreign publishers had brought more titles with them to their stands. First edition books had also made a good portion of the presented titles.
“Almost every foreign publisher who attended this year’s fair was completely blown away by the number of visitors and the grand venue of the book fair,” Salehi said, adding “I hope the 30th TIBF will have an even better international aspect so that a window would open to Iran’s cultural diplomacy.”
In the international section, each day was assigned to a particular country or city, and given the high capacities of this section, many interesting and informative programs were put on display by international publishers.
“For me, coming to Tehran Book Fair every year is like a cultural ritual,” said Sara, a 27-year old English literature graduate, as she hefted a heavy-looking plastic bag full of newly-purchased books. “This venue is much bigger, and may appear to feel less organized due to the fact that bookstands have been scattered around a massive ground. It takes me over half an hour to travel from one pavilion to another, there are free bicycles and shuttle bus rides to use of course, but I’d rather take the traditional way.” She laughs as she walks away with her heavy plastic bags.
Nima, a 23-year old student of psychology, said his biggest motivation for deciding to buy books at the fair instead of regular bookstores, was the discount coupons; “Sure, here we have a wide range of titles to choose from and I can almost find every book I need, but the 50 per cent discount makes purchasing books much more pleasurable.” His purchased books mostly consisted of psychology textbooks, but among them were also Oriana Fallaci’s ‘Letter to a Child Never Born’, Italo Calvino’s ‘If on a Winter's Night a Traveler’, and Alberto Moravia’s ‘The Thing and Other Stories’. “I like Italian literate,” he shrugs sheepishly.
As a matter of fact, Deputy Culture Minister of Italy also attended the 29th TIBF in in the company of the Iranian Culture Minister Ali Jannati. The fair organized ‘Day of Italy’ on May 7 at the Hall of Nations and displayed a variety of cultural programs to the visitors interested in Italian literature. Italy has been selected as the guest of honor at the next Tehran International Book Fair.