Innovations bring new life to book fair

The day after its official opening on May 20, the 25th annual book fair attracted a modest crowd of book lovers to the Pedion tou Areos park. There were rewards for those who braved the unsettled weather, not the least being the haunting sound of a scops owl, filling the evening with its liquid call. The most welcome innovation is the Bibliocafe, a new cafe-reading room set up by the National Book Center (EKEBI) as a meeting place, a forum for discussions and presentations, and a place to read. On Monday evening there was a lively discussion with writer Espido Freire, introduced by Greek writer Thanassis Heimonas. Spain is this year’s guest of honor at the fair, and this was one of many events arranged to mark the country’s presence. The cafe is a perfect venue for such occasions, being large enough for a decent-sized audience but intimate enough to create a friendly atmosphere. The reading room has a comprehensive exhibition of Spanish titles in Greek translation, which will help make the literature of Spain better known in Greece. Despite the damp, many visitors moved on to the Aliki, the park’s open-air cinema, to see Antonio Drove’s «La verdad sobre el caso Savolta» (The Truth about the Savolta Case) set in wartime Spain, where the owners of a factory intimidated their work force by secretly hiring thugs to assault anarchist and socialist workers. All the films are based on books, and most of them have never been screened before in Greece. Notice boards indicating the location of publishers’ booths make this year’s fair easier to navigate, while the stalls have been spruced up and are better lit. Addressing the opening ceremony on Monday, Athens Publishers and Booksellers Association President Eleni Kanaki spoke of difficulties facing publishers. «There have been no new publishing enterprises producing a considerable number of titles in the last four years, while the number of publishers putting out new books has fallen by 10 percent. Many publishers are on the verge of bankruptcy.» Welcoming the Culture Ministry’s awareness of the problems, Kanaki noted that the ministry supported book promotion rather than infrastructure. «Publishers have to go it alone,» she said.