The literary world pays a visit to Prague

The Prague Post

German-speaking authors featured at book fair this year

Bibliophiles, it’s your time of year. Head up to the Prague Exhibition Grounds this weekend for the 13th annual BookWorld Prague, the international book and literary fair. Thousands of books will be on display, with some accompanied by their authors.

“We play an important role as a literary event,” says Dana Kalinová, managing director of Svet knihy, the production company that organizes BookWorld. “Every year we emphasize literature in a certain language, and invite authors from those countries.”

This year the featured authors are from the German-speaking countries of Austria, Germany and Switzerland. But there will be plenty of English-language authors and discussions, as well as interesting events with representatives from Finland, Spain and Latvia, to name just a few.

“We have participants from more than 30 countries,” Kalinová says. “There’s a stand from the European Union publications department, one from Japan, one from Malaysia and one from Canada.”

Svet knihy is an arm of the Association of Czech Booksellers and Publishers, which sponsors the fair to attract a whole range of book-related people: booksellers, librarians, literary agents, publishers, printers and, not least, the general reading public. They all have a chance to sponsor or browse booths and attend discussions, seminars and author signings.

Regrettably, the author with the biggest name in this year’s fair has canceled. John Irving will be unable to attend, as he’s recovering from surgery.

Along with the featured countries, each BookWorld fair has a theme. This year it’s Literature and Multimedia.

“We were inspired by the boom in audio books in our invited countries, especially Germany,” Kalinová explains. “Plus we want to attract young people, so we’ll have a pavilion of film, TV and multimedia based on books.”

While many may decry technology as the death of reading, Kalinová says it should be looked at differently.

“We need to learn how to use multimedia to promote literature, to encourage people to read,” she says. “Not to fight multimedia, but to use the technologies to bring children back to reading.”

A variety of seminars will be presented addressing the book-versus-technology issue, including one with Alec Williams, a British trainer with experience in children’s library services; a presentation by Google on Google Book Search; and a discussion on the future of audio books.

Listening to books is a concept that is starting to catch on in the Czech Republic, according to Kalinová. “More publishers are doing books on CD,” she says. “I think [the slow start] is because we don’t usually drive. But people could listen to them on the metro!”

While most of the books at the fair will be in other languages, the fair’s Web site is in English, and its program, available in local bookstores, has a list of events that will be in English. Authors to check out include Wilbur Smith, a British writer of African adventure tales, including his latest, The Quest; Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz with his latest book, Enemies: How America’s Foes Steal Our Vital Secrets — And How We Let It Happen; and Francine Prose, an award-winning book and short-story author who will discuss her book Reading Like A Writer.

Stage readings by authors Robert Fulghum and Miloš Urban, as well as a discussion of the characters in Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre, should provide literary entertainment for every taste.