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Bogota’s 2013 Book Fair: A Brief “Recorrido”


By the time I arrived in Colombia’s capital for the 2013 Bogotá Book Fair (Filbo) the book festival had already opened its doors to the public, with a group of SALAMistas among those in attendance. A la caza de los libros noted Wisconsin’s Paloma Celis Carbajal as she joined an eager weekend crowd of book enthusiasts.


One of the first stops was Arte Dos Gráfico. Our library already holds a large selection of their artist books, and after a two year absence from the Fair, there were bound to be novedades to enhance ours and the collections of other SALALM libraries.

Thanks to my SALALM colleagues who had already explored the many pabellones, on my first day at the fair I knew I should stop by the aisle housing several independent publishers: Luna, Laguna, and La Silueta that were new to many of us. Their collective output ranged from detective fiction to graphic novels. Along with Tragaluz, they provided a representative sample of quality titles from the independent press.


The ever present e-book could also be found at Filbo, and not just at the “bigigies.” The independents have realized that a new community of readers expects digital content and some of them now sell e-book cards at over 12 bookshops in Bogotá where lectores can buy an e-book and upload it to their laptop, ipad, etc. They are also available for several e-readers. An adventurer SALAMista wanted some detective fiction and bought an e-card on the spot. We hope to hear a report on that experience.


The fair is divided into several pabellones, with some publishers having a presence at all of them, often confusing but also reminding a tired Californian of the variety of Colombia’s publishing output. This year Portugal was the featured country and fair publicity included several allusions to a “sea of books” that “engulfed the reader.”

At one of the booths selling remainders “from the best publishers in the world,” the vendedor seemed certain that my accent was from Spain and asked if I knew the Nobel laureates from the other side of the Atlantic. I named what I could remember (Cela, Benavente and Echegaray) and he asked, “were they any good?” I was tempted to give him the polite version of NPI (no puedo informarle), but opted for “algunos mas que otros.”

Wondering through a sea of books one can find the unexpected, like a cookbook (Cocina criolla cartagenera de Veddá Veddá, OCLC: 757913880) from Transformemos, which has been honored at a culinary contest in Paris, as the radio report notes. An earlier video showcased the proud Cartageneros long before their recetas de cocina were to become an international sensation.

After an exhausting 2 days at the crowded Corferia aisles, a late afternoon excursion to the movies became an adventure through a cartelera dominated by foreign titles, with only one Colombian production that turned out to be the right choice: Roa. The film explores the 1948 killing of a well-known political leader in what became the Bogotazo, that left more than 3,000 dead and ushered in a period of political violence. It’s based on the novel El crimen del siglo and has been reissued with the protagonist on the cover to capitalize on what is certain to become a local hit, which we hope can reach the art house circuit in the United States.


Although he has lived away for many years, Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia’s Nobel laureate, dominates the literary scene and he is being introduced to a new generation of readers via a graphic novel (Gabo memorias de una vida mágica) published simultaneously in Colombia and Spain.


On the last day the weather indicated rain and a visit to Librería Lerner seemed like good way to supplement Filbo’s offering. The Lerner-Norte staff endured the capricious requests of 2 SALAmistas, at times bombarding the knowledgeable Don Willie with an avalanche of non-existent titles: “todas la reinas in the title and published by la gallina ciega,” insisted yours truly. Don Willie patiently looked around and found it, Locas de felicidad (OCLC: 611409632) published by La iguana ciega!

The 2013 Filbo will be open to the public for 14 days. It expects over 400,000 vistors, among them would have been a group of SALALM and REFORMA librarians whose visit was supported by book fair organizers: Cámara Colombiana del Libro and Proexport. The group’s visit was highlighted on the book fair’s blog.

Adan Griego,
Curator for Iberoamerican Collections
Stanford University Libraries

Images/Photos
1) Feria del Libro

2) Hortensia Calvo (Tulane), Teresa Chapa (North Carolina-Chapel Hill), courtesy of Adan Griego

3) E-books, courtesy of Adan Griego

4) Entrance to Portugal’s Pabellón, courtesy of Paloma Celis-Carbajal (Wisconsin)

5) Gabo graphic novel, publisher image.

6) Lerner Book shop staff, courtesy of Adan Griego

7) SALALM librarians, courtesy of Adan Griego

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