Book World Prague 2023 promises to be most colourful yet

The annual international book fair and literary festival Book World Prague got underway on Thursday at the city’s Výstaviště grounds, featuring over 350 exhibitors from 30 countries. I spoke to Radovan Auer, the head of Book World Prague and asked him to tell me more about the choice of this year’s main theme, which is “Authors without Borders”.

Radovan Auer | Photo: Tereza Kunderová,  Czech Radio

“For the last two years we had very strong guest countries with very strong cultures, France and Italy, and we realised we didn’t give enough space to authors representing countries which stand a little bit on the borders.

“This is why we chose the theme Authors without Borders. But we are not talking just about geographical borders, we are also crossing the borders of genres and literature itself. And I must say that while Book World has always been very colourful, this year it will be more colourful than ever.”

Who are some of the main guests coming this year? I understand there will be quite a few English speaking writers this year….

“Yes, one of them is coming today. It is Ben Aaronovich, known for the legendary TV series Doctor Who. Unfortunately the US writer Robert Fulghum is not coming because of a heart operation and neither is Rob Wilkins.

“But the others, including the Russian author Vladimir Sorokin and Ukrainian star Serhiy Zhadan will definitely arrive, and Serhiy will also perform with his punk-rock band. So altogether there will be around 70 international guests.”

Does the programme reflect in any way the ongoing war in Ukraine?

“Yes, we are strongly focusing on supporting Ukrainian literature and culture and we are supporting their stand here thanks to the PPF Foundation, which is covering all the costs of Ukrainian participation.

“We will also be selling Ukrainian books, because we think it’s very important that the Ukrainian guests who are now living in our country can read their books in their native language. That’s why we are also organizing a lot of programmes for children in Ukrainian language.

“We are also inviting a group of Ukrainian publishers to help them export Ukrainian literature, as part of our Central and East European Book Market.”

Can you tell us a little bit more about the Central and Eastern European Book Market, which you are launching this year?

“We got this idea already before Covid, when we were thinking about how to enhance the business sector of our book fair, how to work with agents and publishers and so on.

“We realised that the possibility for a small country like Czechia was to become a window of Central and East European literatures, so this is our mission that we are starting this year.

“We invited experts from about 13 countries from Central and Eastern Europe who will be presenting their literature and book market and who will be networking.

“This year is a sort of a pilot year, but next year we are planning to invite a lot of publishers, agents and so on in order to enhance the book market in our region.”