Thessaloniki Book Fair has become ‘a cultural event in its own right’

The Fourth Thessaloniki Book Fair starts today, the culmination of a year’s hard work by the team at the National Book Center of Greece (EKEBI). The preparation has included taking into account criticisms, comments and suggestions solicited by the team after last year’s fair. This writer is pleased to see that the 2007 program offers more extensive use of interpreters to share the message from all those interesting meetings more widely, as well as events targeting Greek publishers, some of whom need practical advice if they are to function effectively at international book fairs. The list of book presentations has wisely been trimmed back from last year, when there were simply too many and few were tailored to attract the much-desired attention of literary agents and publishers from abroad. Once again, there’s a strong cultural component, with exhibitions and film screenings linked to this year’s theme of travel. Among the parallel events are a workshop with acclaimed illustrator Quint Bucholz at the Goethe Institute, an exhibition of work by poet and artist Nikos Engonopoulos at the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art and a journey into the universe with the Starlab mobile planetarium. As EKEBI director Catherine Velissaris told Kathimerini English Edition, the Thessaloniki Book Fair is «not only a place to come and look at books but also a cultural event in its own right.» That distinctive component gives the TBF a look of its own, quite different from book fairs that primarily or exclusively address the trade, and one that is worth cultivating. The fair also aims to be part of the city’s life, and this year’s policy of free admission to the public should boost interest among adults. Youngsters have been keen participants from the start, drawn to an engaging array of hands-on activities in the children’s corner, organized by the inspired Evi Gerokosta of EKEBI and her colleagues. The trade is well served too, needless to say, with the usual opportunities to do deals, plus conferences and meetings for librarians, publishers and booksellers. Today, for example, there’s a seminar organized by the Athens-based translation center EKEMEL to introduce six Greek writers to publishers and journalists from abroad, and an eminently practical talk for publishers on «How to do Frankfurt» by Frankfurt Book Fair executive Joyce Aravena. Free transport The fair opens for business today at 10 a.m., with the official opening by Greek President Karolos Papoulias at 7 p.m. Opening hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., 10 p.m. on Saturday. And the TBF is offering free transport by coach from Athens to Thessaloniki for visitors to the fair. The coach leaves the Panathenaic (Kallimarmaro) Stadium at 8 a.m. and returns from Thessaloniki at 4 p.m. every day during the fair (Information at tel 210.920.3000.)