Beijing International Book Fair, Day 1: Nice Books You're Not Allowed to Look At
By Canaan Morse, published
Yesterday was the first day of Beijing’s 18th annual International Book Fair, now in a new venue, the New China International Exhibition Center (新国展), which is right next to the airport in Shunyi. The location is huge: the fair is only using four of eight total exhibition rooms in one of the three main buildings, and even then the space feels pretty empty. This year’s Guest of Honor is The Netherlands, who have set up a white-and-pale blue pavilion reminiscent of the Shanghai Expo last year, and they are joined in their hall by representatives from all the major European and Asian countries. That same space houses all the major foreign publishing enterprises who came to the fair, and it is one clear center of activity. Penguin has a huge booth; W.W. Norton, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, MacMillan, McGraw-Hill, Harper’s and Hachette are all here, as well as the major university presses from England and America.
The remaining three rooms house Chinese publishers grouped along either regional or business-related lines; each of China’s 23 provinces has its own exhibit, while many of the national publishers with which we’re familiar (People’s Literature, Fenghuang, Changjiang Wenyi, October Arts & Literature, etc.) are put together and marked according to the business group that owns them (like the China Publishing Business Group, China Educational Publishing Group, etc.). Aside from traditional publishing enterprises there is a large section dedicated to digital publishing (which we’ll talk more about tomorrow after we go to their events) as well as a smattering of agents.
While it was immediately clear the event has not exactly reached international hot-button status, there was still plenty of business being conducted. Even we at Paper Republic were approached by a handful of Chinese publishers looking to outsource translation projects, though they were uniformly disappointed by our requirement that fees must out-compete the minimum wage. There is also a fairly lively schedule of events for these four days, most of which are taking place at the Dutch pavilion (or at other venues organized by the Dutch), but include other sponsors as well. Paper Republic heard a talk by the son of Robert van Gulik, Dutch diplomat to China, sinologist and author of detective fiction set in the Tang Dynasty. We also went to an off-site book launch event for (get this!) Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit books, which the Japan-based publisher Pupulan (蒲蒲兰) has just translated into Chinese.
At three o’clock, however, all the guests at the Fair were surprised by the sudden announcement that all had to vacate the premises (which we did, guided by SWAT teams) to make room for a high-ranking government official who would visit the exhibition. Looking back, the evacuation process seems rather random; everyone who had bought a ticket had to leave, as did many of us who had badges. Yet some weren’t forced out (not according to rank, though—right place at right time?) and, so they claim, came within twelve feet of Li Changchun. I’m so jealous I can barely keep my eyes open.
Events Today, 9/1:
11:00 Princess Laurentien of Orange gives a workshop on children’s literature Dutch Pavilion
2:00 The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh Dutch Pavilion
7:00 “Literature and the Elements” Dutch authors Margriet de Moor &Salomon Kroonenberg, moderated by Eric “Shorty” Abrahamsen The Bookworm, Sanlitun
Events Tomorrow, 9/2:
11:00 Lecture, Princess Laurentien of Orange Dutch Pavilion Writer’s Corner
3:30 Conversation, Herman Koch and Zhu Wen Dutch Pavilion
7:00 Poetry evening with Bernief, Ramsey Nasr, Anna Enquist, Yan Jun, Xi Chuan, Wang Jiaxin interpreted by Canaan “The Silent Type” Morse Trainspotting, Fangjia Hutong