Literature lovers visiting Guadalajara can pull out their reading glasses and prepare to discover the latest page-turners at the Mexican city’s 26th International Book Fair (FIL).
The world’s second-largest literature festival after Germany’s Frankfurt Book Fair, the FIL is the most important annual event of its kind in the Spanish-speaking world. More than 600,000 visitors and over 500 writers from around the world are set to attend the nine-day fair, which is organized by the public University of Guadalajara and brings in over $330 million (U.S.) each year.
The FIL takes place from Nov. 24 to Dec. 2 in the Expo Guadalajara convention center (Avenida Mariano Otero #1499, Valle Verde; click here for a detailed map of the area), which will lend 34,000 square meters of floor space and is immediately surrounded by major hotels including the Hilton, Westin and Camino Real. Entry costs a mere 20 pesos ($1.50 U.S.) for adults or 15 pesos for children, senior citizens, students and teachers.
Combining Business and Culture
The FIL aims to provide an optimal business environment not only for the book-industry professionals and exhibitors who attend the fair, but also for the reading public eager to meet authors and pick up the latest entries in the market, both fact and fiction. Last year’s event drew 659,898 general public attendees, 1,935 publishing houses from 43 countries, 17,800 book professionals and 188 literary agents.
While generating business is one of its main goals, the FIL is also a cultural festival in which literature plays a major role, with authors from all continents and languages participating in talks, signings and forums for academic discussions of major 21st century issues.
Acclaimed Colombian author and Mexico City resident Gabriel Garcia Marquez is among the many stars to make frequent appearances at the fair. The FIL also provides a platform for upcoming authors to breakthrough by highlighting the 25 best kept secrets in Latin America.
The fair is also a politically significant event, with defeated presidential candidate Josefina Vazquez Mota and President-Elect Enrique Peña Nieto both giving talks at last year’s event. (The latter may give it a miss this time around, having made an infamous faux pas in 2011 when he could not name three books that he’d read!)
Among the scheduled highlights: The FIL will stage a tribute to the late Carlos Fuentes, a Mexican literary giant and regular FIL attendee who died in May, and will celebrate the 80th birthday of Elena Poniatowska, arguably Mexico’s greatest living writer and intellectual. There will also be a range of children’s events, publishing meetings and discussions on the impact of the e-book in the world of literary sales.
Chile – Guest of Honor
Each year since 1993, the FIL has invited a country, region or city to be the guest of honor, affording them an opportunity to display the best of their cultural and literary heritage. (Los Angeles and Germany were among the most recent guests.)
Chile, this year’s guest of honor, will participate in a series of round tables, conferences, workshops, literary presentations, poetry readings, theater productions, film screenings, art exhibits and concerts featuring styles ranging from rock to experimental music.
Grand Prize Controversy
The FIL has drawn controversy this year over its decision to award its grand prize to Peruvian author Alfredo Bryce Echenique. Earlier this year, a jury of six critics, academics and writers decided unanimously to grant him the prestigious Literary Award in Romantic Languages for recognition of lifetime achievement in any literary genre.
While the jury described Bryce Echenique as “one of the essential figures of Latin American literature” and an “extraordinary chronicler of life as well as of the literary and political searches of Latin Americans,” he has long been dogged by allegations of plagiarism over a number of articles he supposedly authored in his native country.
The jury’s decision sparked an outcry in certain literary circles, with several high-profile writers and critics calling for the FIL not to honor Bryce Echenique with the biggest literary prize in Latin America. So, in a bid to avoid further controversy, the organizing committee chose to rescind his invitation a month before the fair was set to begin. Bryce Echenique will still receive the award, plus $150,000 in prize money, at his home in Lima, but he will be the first grand prize winner in 22 years not to attend the ceremony to give an acceptance speech.