By Edward Nawotka
You might think a book fair is a book fair is a book fair, but I have to say that my first visit to Guadalajara has left a strong impression. Not only are there significantly more publishers from smaller Central American nations than I’ve ever seen before — Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica — as well as places like Cuba (not likely ever to appear in the US in the short-term), the publishers bring a Latin-flair to the fair that adds a lot of energy to the festivities. Since this is an event that caters equally to the professionals and the public, you have certain “features” that you don’t find elsewhere — Herradura Tequila has a very prominent booth, for example — and several publishers have enlisted models (all tottering on what look like four or five inch heels) to stand at the entrance of their booths and smile (or stare, bored, into their cell phones). They all wear sashes indicating the publishing house they represent — from DK to Cengage learning — like beauty pageant contestants.
It’s clearly a showcase for the culture and the range of titles on offer is astounding, from first-time debut novelists, to clever re-packaged classics, to omnibuses of academic treatises on history and literary theory. One prominent publishing executive from a large Mexican house noted that Spanish-language culture doesn’t have the prestige that other languages have, such as French or German, and the publishers here are in an uphill battle with history to win-over readers from outside the Spanish-speaking countries.
Still, literature in Spanish is not a unified body (nor is it in English, German or French) and continues to evolve differently across the world. This may be why the Royal Spanish Academy has proposed changes to the Spanish-language itself, eliminating two entire “letters” from the language — “ch” and “ll” — and are in the midst of proposing several more changes, including the elimination of usage of accents in several instances — for the official spelling guide to be published this December. Here at the Fair, 22 different Spanish language bodies have been meeting to debate the various changes.
A number of notable writers, including Arturo Perez Reverte, José Emilio Pacheco and Javier Marías, have weighed in with the press to express their “displeasure” at some of the proposed changes.
I’d also be remiss in not noting that the novel Todo Esta Perdonado (All Is Forgiven) by Spaniard Rafael Reig, won the Prix VI Tusquets Editores de Novela, one of the more exciting prizes in the Spanish-speaking world and worth €20,000.
In the book (according to Fox News Latino) “Reig brings to life Laura Gamazo, daughter of a businessman who gets rich during the 1939-1975 Franco dictatorship, and who dies of poisoning on her wedding day. After her death, her father, Perico Gamazo, looks to a friend of the family who used to be a cop to clear up the case, and it is he who relates half a century of Spanish history with the families of both as the thread of the story.”
The book will be published simultaneously in March in Spain, Mexico and Argentina. You can read a bit more about the book and award here.