Beirut Book Fair will be held with those who attended

Beirut Book Fair will be held with those who attended

Two sessions in one year to make up for the absence of three years

Thursday – 17 Jumada II 1443 AH – 20 January 2022 AD Issue No. [

Beirut Arab International Book Fair in a previous session

Beirut: Sawsan Al-Abtah

The decision was taken at the “Arab Cultural Club” and the “Beirut Book Fair” will be held for those who attended, regardless of the difficulties, after a break of three years, from March 3 to 13. “Beirut cannot remain without an exhibition, especially since the Antelias exhibition will remain hidden, and we are in constant contact with them,” says Dr. Adnan Hammoud, director of the Arab Cultural Club and director of the book fair. The meetings are continuing, as well as vigorous contacts, to persuade the largest number of Lebanese and Arab publishers to participate. “The intention this time is not profit, but a kind of challenge, more than anything else. We are the ones who will cover the difference in costs, and what concerns us is that the exhibition returns.” With the difficult economic situation, the club – which is the organizer, this time without the Lebanese Publishers Association – lowered the price per square meter from $100 to $10. “We rented a square meter for $60, and we will pay the difference, to reduce costs for publishers, and all we ask of them is to reduce the prices of their books to be eaten by readers, and they are offered at acceptable prices. As for those who want to raise prices, that is their business, and they will not find anyone to buy.” Dr. Hammoud asserts that the cultural club will bear the losses, from the proceeds of the previous exhibition, and until now it is not from a supportive party, and it is the only financier of this event.
The exhibition will be held in its 63rd session, i.e. the current one, which was supposed to see the light at the end of 2019 in “Bial” in the center of Beirut. But this means that the exhibition area will be reduced from 10,000 square meters, to only 4,000, while the main hall will be built, and this is what the publishers promised, so that the book fair will be held in a new session No. 64, on its usual official date from 2 to 12 December 2022. Thus, two sessions were held in one year; Realizing what happened. This raises the ire of a number of publishers, who believe that the conditions are not favorable for organizing two sessions in one year. The owner of “Dar Al-Adab” Rana Idris told Asharq Al-Awsat, “We will not participate in this course. We understand that the Arab Cultural Club, which is a civil organization, whose main activity is to hold the exhibition, but we do not see the time, nor the place befitting. We are in the midst of an economic crisis, the pandemic is at its peak, and we are on the cusp of elections, and we do not know who are interested in books at this particular period.” And Idris continues, “For me, returning to the book fair is very important, and I would have liked to come back in an exceptional way. It is not normal for me after the absence of my brother, Samah Idris, who was one of the activists in the exhibition.”
Idris teaches us that what looks like a referendum was conducted among the publishers, and it turned out that the active majority did not want an exhibition at this time and in a narrow place. Therefore, the “Publishers for the Profession” group, which consists of 14 houses, including “Dar Al-Adab”, “Al-Saqi”, “Sader”, “The Arab House of Science”, “Al-Tanweer”, “Jadeed”, and “Dar Al-Tanweer” The Arab Publications Company, Hachette-Antoine, and other houses will not participate in the exhibition for the same reasons that Dar Al-Adab considers. Idris added, “We do not want to return after this absence with a meager exhibition that is not worthy of Beirut. Logistically, there is a problem, and we prefer to wait for December, and the exhibition will be held on time, and the main hall has been reconstructed, especially since there is a promise to do so.” Idris expressed her sincere appreciation for what the “Lebanese Publishers Syndicate” has done during the current crisis, describing it as a “colossal effort” to facilitate the participation of Lebanese publishing houses in Arab exhibitions, at the lowest costs and the best conditions.
Idris concludes by saying, “We will defend fiercely, and with all our might, to hold a book fair worthy of us in December, but now I think that the time is too short for us to come up with satisfactory results. We are talking about an exhibition that has become part of Beirut’s heritage, and its foundations, and we do not want it to appear weak, at any moment.”
Dr. Hammoud, who is responsible for organizing the exhibition, has another opinion. He considers that a small space, and an exhibition that brings together the Lebanese, is better than this resounding silence. The man is reluctant to talk about obstacles, or those who have decided not to participate. He says, “We are in the stage of overcoming obstacles, and a dialogue with all parties, and we will work to solve the problems. Everyone wants the exhibition in December, but we don’t want to see time pass without doing anything.” The exhibition is the only place that brings together intellectuals and writers. It is almost the remaining space that no one misses. “Is this not enough to insist on facilitating this meeting? Let’s consider it just a cultural event this time, to stir the idle. As for our orientation, it is Lebanese; Because we know very well the situation in which we live.”
The director of the exhibition confirms that there is enthusiasm, and Lebanese and Arab publishers from Egypt and Syria want to participate, and they are also benefiting from the reduced price for space, just like the Lebanese publisher. In order to overcome the problem of space, the area of ​​the largest suite will not exceed 50 square meters to make room for everyone to be able to participate. Fine artists, they would like to display their paintings, but the guest of the place does not allow to diversify the activities. Poets, writers, and intellectuals communicate and encourage. “There is a thirst for out of this stillness, some movement, that will revive the souls.”
The problems are complex. Changing the location outside Beirut is not on the table, and the necessity calls for finding a space available to all; Because transportation is expensive for visitors. As for the health problem, the cultural club wants to abide by the conditions that secure the safety of its visitors, and the wings will be open to each other, to avoid the presence of narrow places, and the corridors have been expanded, from two to three meters. Publishers will be required to have a set number of people in each booth. The last session held in 2018, in which 234 publishers participated, including 70 Arab publishers. The Cultural Club does not see any harm in even a quarter of them participating; The original is to set up the exhibition, and to break the silence. There are Lebanese and Arab roles as well, which confirmed their presence. Director of the Cultural Committee, Dr. Khaled Ziada, told Al-Sharq al-Awsat that he has started preparing for the program, and that all ideas are welcome. “What we want is to confirm that Beirut will always be the capital of culture, and this is what the activities we are preparing for will revolve around it. We have the competencies and talents, with the participation of the younger generation, that will help in that and more.”
The first session of the “Beirut Arab International Book Fair” was held in 1956 in the “West Hall”, and since then it has become the oldest Arab book fair. Hammoud says, “Had it not been for the explosion of the port, we would have reached the 66th round today.” It is worth noting that the exhibition has not been held since 2019 due to the financial collapse that prevented publishers from paying their wings allowance in dollars, then crises followed, and the explosion of the port came to completely eliminate the place where the exhibition is being held, and the current disagreement between the organizing club of the event, and some publishers, It is over the brewing conditions for the return, which is a positive dispute in the depth, and in which the two sides are keen on Beirut’s position before anything else.