Book World Prague 2017 promises fresh venues and marked international dimension

Book World Prague 2016, photo: Filip Jandourek

This year’s Book World Prague has just got underway at the city’s Výstaviště. However, the 23rd edition of the trade fair and literary festival will also see it go outside the industrial palace to novel venues, while it will also have a major international aspect. I discussed Book World Prague 2017 with the event’s recently appointed new director, Radovan Auer.

“For this year, we decided to have as the main literature topic ‘Genius Loci in Literature’. That means we are focusing on literature which is based not only on the characters of people but also the places where literature is set.

“The idea was that Prague is a UNESCO City of Literature, but there are also another 19 Cities of Literature. So we invited them as honorary guests and half of them have come.

“They have brought programmes with them and we have also organised discussions between them. This could also help Prague find ways to work with this UNESCO title.”

I understand that you’re branching outside the Výstaviště trade fair palace and will also be operating in other venues this year?

“Yes. We are very lucky that this year the airship Gulliver opened at the DOX Centre for Contemporary Art. Gulliver is dedicated to literature, so we’re happy that we’ll be there every evening.

Airship Gulliver at DOX,  photo: Till Eichenauer
“We also have a programme in the Lapidarium of the National Museum, so among original statues from Charles Bridge there will be readings by international authors. That will be really interesting.”

Who are some of the main guests coming this year?

“Though there are about 50 authors from all over the world, I would like to mention three.

“Corinne Hofmann could be interesting, because her bestseller The White Masai is also her personal story. It was sold to 50 countries and has sold 70 million copies.

“A second interesting author could be John Boyne, who has come from Dublin, which is also a City of Literature. He also wrote a bestseller, which was filmed successfully, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

“The third person who I would like to mention is Uri Orlev, the 86-year-old recipient of the Hans Christian Andersen Award. He survived the Holocaust and wrote about it from the point of view of a boy.

“That connects him to John Boyne, and they will both meet at the Bubny train station in Prague. It’s very significant because it’s the place from which Jews were sent on transports during WWII.”

Book World Prague 2016,  photo: Filip Jandourek
Book World Prague is both a book trade fair and a literary festival. Does either of those sides dominate?

“I would like to say that in the coming years we want to be more of a festival.

“But I think that will also help the trade fair. If we have good dramaturgy, good guests and so on, I think it will also help book sales.

“So we connect both, but my idea for the coming years is more stress on the literary festival part.”