FIL 2015, Guadalajara, Mexico
In a previous article it's mentioned how Mexico has established policies and programs to overcome its low levels of readership. One of those initiatives is the Feria Internacional del Libro (FIL), or International Book Fair in English, a nine-day exhibit scheduled yearly at the end of November. Since 1993, the FIL has facilitated a link between authors, publishing houses and readers, placing books at the center of many cultural happenings that seek to attract the attention of locals as well as visitors, and has been consolidated as the most ambitious fair for the publishing industry in Spanish language after the Buenos Aires event of the same name. It’s estimated that the 2014 edition was visited by 760,000 people, and the number is expected to grow this year.
Guadalajara FIL’s scope is not limited to Hispanic culture, as yearly editions have had as guests other language speaking countries or “cultural zones”, such as Canada, Germany, Italy, Brazil, the United States, Israel and the United Kingdom (guest of 2015), promoting their culture with an emphasis on literature, but not limited to it. The U.K.’s cultural offerings include the island’s prestigious education services, in coordination with its permanent representation in Mexico, The British Council; as well as visual arts exhibits, cinema presentations, theater and other performance spectacles, such as jazz and folk concerts.
The U.K.’s publishing industry is pushing a challenging program at the FIL this year, with the inclusion of comics and the graphic novel in discussion panels. British storyteller Karrie Fransman is one of the guests whose narrative about a Middle-Eastern refugee across Europe will bring forward an expected discussion about this social phenomena that’s rapidly changing the course of History and Geopolitics. Fransman’s comics are narrated with great empathy from the point of view of a teenager who not only is forced to leave his homeland, but also encounters enormous difficulties in his way through Europe.
This positions comics as a privileged and necessary platform for slow-paced reflection and solidarity, in opposition to the celerity and almost sensationalist logic of news outlets in electronic media. She will be talking with one of Mexico’s renowned comics author, Bernardo Fernández, “BEF”, in one of the most exciting panels of the FIL, as well as offering a workshop on comics-making for youngsters aged 13-18, and a collaborative drawing experiment (a “slam”) with artists Ed Vere, Valeria Gallo and Abril Castillo.
The U.K.’s focus on literature has other equally exciting panels of debate that will range from the intersection between literature and popular culture, to the current perspectives on race, class and sexuality that enrich the interpretation of literature. Philippa Gregory, who’s been called “the queen of British historical fiction”, and whose novels have been adapted to very popular television shows such as The Tudors or The Wise Woman. A Respectable Trade, will be having a conversation with Welsh author Joseph Dunthorne and Mexican writer Guadalupe Nettel on the subject of love, and she’ll be talking about History and Fiction in a dedicated panel with writers Joanne Harris and Cortina Butler.
Iain Sinclair will be discussing the centrality of London in his work, while internationally acclaimed author Irvine Welsh will share a panel –and maybe a pint– with the famously irreverent writer and publisher Guillermo Fadanelli, in what promises to gather lots of attention from the public. Identity issues and literature are scheduled to be discussed by Brits Joanne Harris, Ned Beauman, Sunjeev Sahota and Nick Barley. It will be interesting to see how British authors have received well-established subgenres from the Latin American tradition, specifically the Magic Realism, which will be pondered in a panel conducted by Mexican writer Alberto Chimal.
The conversation about literature in all its forms, from the traditional printed book to its relation with videogames, poetry as performance and the practice of blogging, will seal this year’s FIL dedicated to the United Kingdom. There’s more to come, though:
Musical activities keep gaining more space at the FIL. Many genres are covered: Aurora chamber Orchestra will play their versions of English icon John Lennon; Indie rock band Spector, named after the legendary music producer from the 60s Phil Spector, is scheduled for a concert, as well as three groups of contemporary Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh folk: bands Sam Lee & Jon Whitten, Jarlath Henderson & Hamish Napier, and Peatbog Faeries. The popular Cinematic Orchestra will be one of the last acts, playing their classics and new material. The music representation will also include a jazz band formed in England by Gary Crosby. Jazz Jamaica is one of Britain’s best fusions of Caribbean rhythms.
The Cinema section presents 11 films of various genres, most of them released in 2014 or this year, such as Carol Morley’s The Falling or the upbeat documentary Pride by Matthew Warchus. These recent pictures will be presented next to two classics: John Baptist Lucius Noel’s Epic of Everest (1924) and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger (1927), one of his early silent films that has been digitally restored by the British Film Institute and will be accompanied by live music, in the second presentation of this cinematic jewel, after its 2014 presentation in Mexico City.
The visual arts have a very diverse representation, with polemic artist David Shrigley showing his sardonic Lose Your Mind exhibition, consisting of sculptures, prints, drawings, oils and video-animation. George Blacklock and Gary Oldman’s duo Slipping Glimpsers have a multimedia project that’s gathered plenty of attention in the U.K.
Fashion designer Amanda Watkins will present her work with local children of Mexico’s Monterrey city “Cholombianos”, and finally Words and Pictures is a British Council collection that includes work by David Hockney. All these cultural activities are followed by discussion panels that seek to link science and literature, as well as talks by personalities who’ve had important academic experiences in the island, such as the ex rector of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, José Narro.
To complete FIL 2015, there are more than 70 activities that include book presentations and signings, colloquia, prizes, tributes and mentions, panels on politics, sciences, comics, political cartoons, elections, journalism, forums for book publishers, digital editions workshops and a special section for children and youngsters.
Particular authors and Latin American countries will have their own small sections-panels, such as the Julio Cortázar chair, or the Seamus Heaney and the Salvador Elizondo roundtables. Small South American country Uruguay always has a significant presence and on this occasion, a panel will be set up to discuss new authors and tendencies in what is one of the region’s richest literary countries. Quebec has an important representation as well: there are three panels dedicated to new tendencies in dramaturgy, fiction and poetry, presented by Larry Tremblay, Louise Desjardins and Mathieu Blais.
Every year the FIL offers its prize in Romance Languages to a distinguished author. Spaniard Enrique Vila-Matas will receive the honor in a discussion panel composed by academic Juan Antonio Masoliver, writers Cristina Fernández Cubas, Eduardo Lago, Ignacio Vidal-Folch, Guadalupe Nettel and journalist Josep Massot, who will be talking about Matas’ four decades of continuous activities in literature.
For an event of this magnitude, the FIL has managed to find a balance between its main events and the inclusion of small and independent publishing houses and authors, as well as academic presentations that are rarely heard of by large audiences.