3 December 07 | lindsay_powell | Comments [2]

As the Barcelona Book Fair ended this past Sunday, the bigger, better—and according to Jorge Volpi at El Pais—“paradise” that is the Guadalajara International Book Fair (FIL) was just getting started on the other side of the globe.

A resident of Mexico City, Volpi writes a very funny article, focusing largely on how the rivalry between his native city and Guadalajara plays out during the fair. He humorously refers to himself as chilango, slang for a resident of Mexico City, and implies that his fellow chilangos will lynch him for writing this article. Making a compromise between his loyalties to Mexico City and the impressive literary culture of Guadalajara, he ends his article citing the power of FIL to illuminate books as the “unbeatable pretext for the reconciliation of these two cities”.

Volpi also compares the FIL to Frankfurt and it is certainly interesting to hear about Frankfurt from the perspective of a writer not publisher…

We writers have our inferno: The Frankfurt Book Fair. Few experiences are as anguishing as attending—in error—this gigantic labyrinth. Books in all languages, themes, colors, and sizes. To top it all off, miles of “professionals”, the ones really invited to the party: the editors, agents, publicists, and scouts. In Frankfurt, the readers are prohibited (they’re only allowed to look at the books from afar) and writers are the weirdos: sometimes the next Nobel winner attends, a recipient of the Bookseller’s Prize, the literary companion of this country—or culture—, the writers who are invited every year, and usually some absent-minded novelist or poet. For what? To suffer in front of what Gabriel Zaid calls too many books. Here literature is of less importance: what is important are the deals, the meetings every twenty minutes, and drinks at night. The best thing that authors and readers can do in Frankfurt is flee…

In comparison to the callous and cold German fair, Volpi paints Guadalajara like a beach party where editors, authors, and readers alike gather at the end of the fair to dance salsa together.

The FIL in Guadalajara is almost a paradise: an enormous but manageable space, well-ventilated, packed with readers and writers, even though it also has a growing number of professionals… This city in a few days convert itself into the center of the Spanish language (and a few others). And what’s more: a forum for intellectual discussion, an incentive for the critic, a showcase of thought, a refuge for the arts. I don’t say this so that the Guadalajarians will excuse me for being a chilango, but the FIL is an example for Mexico City and for all of the country.

And probably an example for Frankfurt as well. Here’s hoping for traditional German folkdance next year…

26 November 07 | | Comments

UNAM (La Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México) has reached an
agreement with Google to digitalize all of their publications from
1950 through 2007. The deal was signed this past June and as of late September, Google has uploaded the first group of books, consisting of 718 titles.

Google will scan groups of UNAMs publications every three or four months and should end up with seven to eight thousand books in total.

With this agreement, UNAM joins The University of Oxford and La Universidad Complutense de Madrid, in making their publications available electronically. While some authors give their permission for the entire work to be uploaded, others will only make available the first five to twenty pages.

The digitalization will surely promote UNAM’s books on a international level, while also making them conveniently accessible to their students and staff. Read more about this transition (in Spanish) at UNAM’s site and at El futuro del libro

26 November 07 | | Comments

El Salón del libro de Barcelona (The Barcelona Book Fair) concluded this past Sunday after five days of events. While no one from Open Letter traveled to Barcelona for the fair, we are certainly interested in coverage of the event.

The SLB site , available in Catalan or Spanish, has lots of useful information for both visitors and vendors. According to the site, some interesting programs included an explication of Catalan culture as seen through the Frankfurt book fair, a few discussions on the role of the environment and paper in publishing, and finally conferences not just for bookstore owners but also for librarians, which is exciting to see.

Authors in attendance included Sebastià Alzamora, Ángela Becerra,
Alfred Bosch, Joaquim Carbó, David Castillo, Joan Corbella, Miquel
Desclot, Feliu Formosa, Alicia Giménez Bartlett, Martí Gironell,
Francisco González Ledesma, Rayda Guzmán, Boris Izaguirre, Joan
Margarit, Juan José Millás, Miquel de Palol, Baltasar Porcel and Jesús
Sánchez.

We’ll be looking for more coverage of the fair and its outcomes later this week.

2 October 07 | | Comments

El diccionario de uso español, a new and improved Spanish dictionary published by Maria Moliner, was unveiled this past Wednesday in Madrid. The dictionary has an incredible addition of 12,000 new terms. Moliner based her dictionary off of the Dictionary from the Academia Real, the Spanish equivalent of the Oxford English Dictionary. With thousands of new terms, it’s interesting to see the range of influence that America and other countries have on the dictionary.

Many terms are related to the internet and computers such as hacker, chat, blog, e-book etc; while others are more political: burka, fatwa, islamista, euroscéptico. The more humorous entries reflect the trends in Spain such as gym-jazz (?), pilates, aromaterapia, and el “chill out”—the section of a discoteca where clubbers escape the dance beats and can listen to “chill” music. You can find the introduction to the dictionary, along with its review, here.

1 October 07 | | Comments [2]

I recently came across this website and it is unlike anything I imagine exists in the US. The Buenos Aires government, along with other European and Latin American cities, has a specific department for the development and preservation of the arts. Part of their work is the creation of The Buenos Aires Audiovisual Archive of Writers, a center in both the physical space of the city and in cyberspace.

The site offers a ton of information about Argentinean writers and the literary scene in Buenos Aires. I suggest browsing the section of probably fifty writers’ top ten books as well as their Quicktime snippets about why they choose each book. The writers appear to be in their own personal libraries or living rooms as they discuss their favorite works.

For Spanish speakers these are interesting little videos but for English speakers, click the British flag in the corner of the home page for an English translation of the entire website. While they don’t dub the video clips into English or add subtitles, the rest of the website has a lot of useful information about writers in Latin America.

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