By Adam Critchley
‘There’s Still a Prejudice’In a first for London, the Spanish Book & Zine Fair on Friday and Saturday (October 4 and 5) featured some 30 exhibitors, independent publishers, and a series of panel discussions with Spanish-language writers. The show reportedly was attended by around 300 people.
“The small-press and indie publishing segment is huge across Latin America,” the event’s founding director Silvia Demetilla tells Publishing Perspectives. “That’s because publishing books and finding a publisher is a difficult task—and because the fanzine has a reactionary and vibrant connotation, and that has a lot to do with our countries.
“Fanzines seduce both those who produce them and those who read and collect them,” Demetilla says. She’s originally from Argentina and has resided in the UK for around 20 years. In London, she co-founded a quarterly literature, arts, and culture magazine called La Tundra in 2011. This year, La Tundra has opened distribution in Spain.
Demetilla says her idea to stage the weekend fair “started as a personal dream, just like with the magazine. And, as a publisher, I’m connected to a lot of writers and literary collectives. I realized there was a great deal of literary talent that deserves to be shown.
“I thought it was necessary to visualize literary production in Spanish in the UK, and visiting book fairs around the world gave me the impetus to begin,” she says. Her concept was to highlight the importance of including small presses and producers of fanzines—not least, she says, because they have a growing presence on the scene.
“I think there’s been a revaluing of literature written in Spanish,” she says, “principally among Spanish speakers, [but] there’s still a prejudice toward books in Spanish. For a book to be considered to have value, it must be published in English.”
‘To Enrich the Public’s Knowledge’
There’s a strong presence of small, independent publishing houses in Latin America, their content often displayed beside that of the region’s homemade, and even handmade books industry, best exemplified by the cardboard-bound books that Publishing Perspectives readers will remember are produced in Argentina and Mexico by outfits such as La Cartonera.
“In the UK,” Demetilla says, “fanzines and indie publications saw a boom during the last decade. But with the digital advance, many publications have ceased to be produced. In my opinion, it’s not about trying to compete with digital but about co-habiting, despite the propaganda that claims that if we don’t ‘go digital’ nobody will read us. Only the best quality publications survive that are aimed at a specific reader niche.
“London has a large number of publishers from all over the world, [as well as] reading groups and collectives that keep this city at the literary zenith, and the Spanish-speaking community is part of that phenomenon.
“We wanted to enrich the public’s knowledge with interesting and up-to-date talks, with a discussion of themes—such as bilingualism about how writers who move countries switch languages—how one begins to write in another language without losing their identity, and how, in summary, the future is perceived as being multilingual.”
At the fair, as an example, Costa Rican comic book writer and illustrator Edo Brenes spoke of the current situation for the comic in Latin America.
Other themes discussed during the event’s panels included gender inequality in publishing. Exhibitors included the London-based The Feminist Library, which houses a large collection of women’s liberation movement literature, and the Mexican collective Feminopraxis, which publishes an online blog and magazine focusing on feminism.
While congratulatory toward the fair’s participants and co-organizers, Demetilla acknowledged the challenge of mounting the event, and praised the support provided by the Open World Research Initiative, an arts and humanities research center at Manchester University.
She says she’s confident of organizing another edition of the fair, and of seeing it grow.