Israel Is Guest of Honor at Mexican International Book Fair

President Shimon Peres to lead delegation featuring dozens of Israeli writers, artists and academics to annual cultural showcase in Guadalajara.

Shlomo Papirblat
Shlomo Papirblat
Shlomo Papirblat
Shlomo Papirblat

As the guest of honor at this year's Guadalajara International Book Fair, which opens November 30 in the Mexican city, Israel is bringing in the big guns. President Shimon Peres will be on hand to inaugurate the Israeli pavilion, designed by the noted Mexican architect Enrique Norten, together with around 30 Israeli writers, artists, musicians and intellectuals including best-selling authors A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman, Etgar Keret and Savion Librecht, Israeli theater icon Gila Almagor and even the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Prof. Ada Yonath. The "talent" will be kept busy giving performances, leading workshops and delivering presentations.

The book fair, known as the FIL (from its Spanish name, Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara), is a major showcase for the literature and culture of the world's Spanish speakers. It's the biggest event of its kind in Latin America, with 1,900 publishers representing 42 countries and thousands more exhibitors.

In recent years the fair, which runs through December 8, has attracted an average of 600,000 visitors.

Starting in 1993, the fair's organizers have each year honored a different city, state country or culture; honorees have included Quebec (2003), Catalonian culture (2004), Los Angeles (2009) and Germany (2011). Now it's Israel's turn. In addition to the events at the fair itself - including an Israeli film festival, an Israeli culinary fair and a headline event in the main auditorium each evening - Israel-related events will be held throughout the city for the duration of the festival.

In explaining their decision to honor Israel this year, the fair's organizers cited Israel's "dynamic and solid" publishing industry, which releases around 7,000 titles in Hebrew each year.

"The landscape of Israeli literature is an authentic mosaic and melting pot of trends and styles," the organizers write on the fair's website, noting in particular the "many Israeli writers that have been translated into different languages and have become noted international literary personalities," including several members of the Israeli delegation to the fair.

The chairman of the fair, Raúl Padilla López, noted that in addition to serving as a platform for writers from around the world this year's fair will offer Israel, as the guest of honor, "the privilege and the space to conduct open dialogue and to make itself heard among people that are not familiar with its culture and to bring them closer to it."

Of the fair's 34,000 square meters of floor space, pride of place will be given to Israel's 1,750-square-meter pavilion. According to its designer, Mexican architect Enrique Norten, it was planned to serve multiple purposes in the course of the fair and was constructed entirely of recycled materials. He says that in it he symbolically combined three Hebrew words which he believes characterize Israel—yetziratiut (creativity), hadshanut (innovation) and hosen (resilence). "This will be another way to understand the world, the rhythm and scales through which the Hebrew language is written," Norten said.

Facsmile copies of the Dead Sea Scrolls and of manuscripts by Albert Einstein will be displayed in the pavilion, which will offer books for sale in a number of languages and exhibitions by Israeli artists.

Among the Israeli authors slated to participate in the fair are Nir Baram, Zeruya Shalev, Shimon Adaf, Eshkol Nevo, Naim Araidi, Ronny Someck, Etgar Keret, Shira Geffen and Agi Mishol.

Musical performances will include Achinoam Nini ("Noa"), Ivri Lider and Hadag Nahash, among others.

Announcing the decision to name Israel as the fair's guest of honor. 'Authentic mosaic and melting pot of trends and styles.'Credit: © Courtesy FIL Guadalajara

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