The Paris Book Fair or the Salon du Livre de Paris renamed this year as Livre Paris is a cultural event held annually at the Porte de Versailles exhibition hall in Paris that brings together readers, writers, scholars, editors, publishers and booksellers from all over the world. I happened to be in Paris during the time the book fair was held ( March 17th to March 20th, 2016) and I visited on the last day, literally a few hours before the exhibition closed. I was waiting in line to buy tickets for my family when a lady came up to me and handed me three tickets saying she wasn’t going to use them. The fortuitous encounter saved us many euros and started off our visit on a good note.
We entered a large room with various pavilions with books galore. There were books, books, books, everywhere. Each pavilion represented a different section of interest including books on travel and adventure, cooking, foreign literature, children’s literature , an area for Manga and graphic novels, or a region like books from Normandy or the Aquitaine-Limousin -Poitou- Charentes area. There were booths devoted to Francophone literature from Algeria, Quebec and other regions. Over 50 countries were represented at the event and there was a special station for foreign literature. The fair focuses on the literature of a specific region or country and cities each year and this year South Korea was the guest of honor. Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire in the Republic of the Congo and Constantine in Algeria were the guest cities invited to showcase their literature. “Resistance” was the theme word for 2016. Discussions, readings, book signings and talks were part of the four- day event. Many readers were waiting in line to have their copies signed by their favorite authors. There were four themed areas with round table discussions, demonstrations, tastings, readings and debates: Culinary Square, Children’s Square, Knowledge and Understanding Square and Religions, Culture and Society Square.
An interesting find was a seven-volume translation of the Valmiki Ramayana into French illustrated with reproductions of original miniature paintings from India. Another impressive item on display was the three-volume quasi-original set of The Bible of Saint-Louis or the Toledo Bible composed between 1226 and 1234. This Bible moralisée was made for King Louis IX of France. Each page of the Bible is divided into four vertical columns with two of the columns containing text in Latin and the other two four ornately decorated medallions.
One area of the room had short story dispensers for us to try out. These story vending machines are becoming immensely popular in France for killing time in public areas. Free fiction is available at the touch of a button and can be read in a minute, three minutes or five minutes depending on how much time you have to spare. The story is printed on long paper that looks like a supermarket receipt. At the fair, the paper with the story was rolled up and tied with a pretty orange ribbon.
The book fair kept abreast of the latest technological trends in our increasingly interconnected world. There were sections devoted to e-books and conferences on information technology. At the same time, seeing the massive crowds and the huge room filled with innumerable books from one end to the other restored my faith in the power of the printed word in this digital era. Good old-fashioned reading will never go out of fashion.