Bogotanos are in for a real treat this month, when the 29th edition of the International Book Fair of Bogotá — FILBo (Feria Internacional del Libro de Bogotá) opens its doors at the Corferias exhibition grounds.
The invited nation this year is the Netherlands, with its very own pavilion covering 3,000 square meters of floor space and decorated with tulips flown in for the occasion. The Dutch Pavilion will showcase trends in design, urbanism and architecture, as well as 30 of their best known literary works, which have been translated into Spanish.
29th Feria Internacional del Libro de Bogotá (FILBo)
April 19-May 2
10 a.m.-8 p.m. M-Th, Sun
10 a.m.-9 p.m. F-Sa
Carrera 37 No. 24-67
$4,000 kids under 12
President Juan Manuel Santos and Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands will inaugurate the pavilion on Tuesday when the fair opens. Princess Laurentien is active in the fields of development, sustainability and literacy, all of which are key issues as Colombia enters a post-conflict scenario.
Anne Frank in the spotlight
One of the more poignant highlights of this year’s fair is the traveling exhibition “Let Me Be Myself — the Story of Anne Frank” from the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. It’s the first time the exhibition will be shown in a South American country.
The story of diarist Anne Frank remains one of the most enduring symbols of human suffering during the Holocaust. Anne Frank died at age 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
“Let Me Be Myself” is structured around historical modules and large-format photos which show Anne’s happy childhood in Frankfurt, followed by the her family’s immigration to Amsterdam and their time in hiding. The exhibition connects the personal story of the Frank family with important historical events, such as the rise of National Socialism in Germany, the proliferation of ghettos and the Final Solution.
Nanette Blitz, who will speak at this edition of the FILBo, was one of the last people to see her classmate Anne Frank. She knew of the existence of a dairy while it was being written. Anne received her diary, which her father published after the war, for her 13th birthday on June 12, 1942.
Nanette was at the party. As the author of Eu Sobrevivi o Holocausto (I Survived the Holocaust), Nanette will give her testimony of Nazi Holland and her short-lived friendship with the literary heroine.
The exhibition is relevant within a Colombian context of reconciliation at a time when the government is trying to end 50 years of internal conflict with the country’s two main guerrilla groups.
The exhibition worked closely with the Bogotá-based Center for Memory, Peace and Reconciliation and will travel to schools and Medellín’s Museum of Memory.
“The story of Anne Frank serves to discuss painful or recent issues from homosexuality to bullying, but with the advantage that, as it is not recent, you can talk about everything without touching the most critical issues directly, ” stated Jan Erik Dubbleman, international director of the Anne Frank House, regarding the landmark FILBo show.
The Netherlands territories also include Curaçao and Aruba, and Antillean authors will be represented at the Hola Holanda! pavilion. Headlining the literary contingency of the guest nation is novelist and poet Cees Nooteboom, author of Rituals (1983), and widely-considered a candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Writers Herman Koch, Maxim Februari, Tommy Wieringa and Mano Bouzamour will also discuss their works during the two week-long fair.
FILBo brings together under several roofs at Corferias book publishers, librarians, editors, writers, illustrators and essentially everyone who is connected to the printed page.
But is also prides itself as space for discussing themes which transcend books to touch the moral and social fabric of our times. Hence, there are lectures on issues pertaining to global affairs, climate change, biodiversity and the sustainability of print journalism in a digital age, to just name a few.
FILBo also brings together a long list of authors from around the globe, including the subject of this month’s cover story, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, who are invited to present and discuss their works. Other notables who continue to shape public opinion include sociologist Abram de Swann, policy analyst David Reiff and the current Nobel Prize in Literature, Svetlana Alexievich.
Nobel laureates at FILBo
Born in the Ukraine, Svetlana Alexievich has covered the survivors of conflict and man-made disasters across Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. According to judges from the prestigious Swedish organization, she was given the Nobel for “her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.”
Alexievich has conducted thousands of interviews with survivors to document the Chernobyl disaster in her 2006 work, Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster. Alexievich’s work inspired the short film Voices from Chernobyl by Irish director Juanita Wilson, which went on to be nominated for an Oscar in 2010.
The Belarusian journalist will participate in a panel alongside Patricia Lara, María José Pizarro and María Emma Wills titled “Women: Narratives From War to Peace.”
Conflict resolution and societal reconciliation are embedded themes at FILBo 29. Hence, the participation of another Nobel Prize winner, Jody Williams, recipient of the Peace Prize in 1997 for her lifelong work to ban landmines.
Born in 1950 in the United States, Williams’ career began during the Vietnam War and continued into the 1980s in Central America, where she provided artificial limbs to children in war-torn El Salvador. Her organization, International Campaign to Ban Landmines, operates in 60 countries, including Colombia.
FILBo’s impressive line-up starts with colourful tulips. But the fair’s big stars are undoubtedly the books, which will cover the extensive floor space of Corferias. From the latest bestseller, to illustrated children’s books, graphic novels and reference works, there is a title for everyone.
Given the thousands of visitors who flock every year to the fair, there are great deals to be had. When browsing for those essential English-language novels, make sure to visit the Bookworm at stand 638 on the first floor of the main exhibition hall.
And if you’ve missed issues of Colombia’s free monthly English newspaper, we’ll be there to complete your collection, as well as hand-out April’s anniversary issue. So see you at FILBo!