Culture

World of Francophone books beckons

There were more than 80,000 visitors to 2016’s SdL. (Mohamad Azakir / The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: Organizers of the 24th edition of the Salon du Livre Francophone intend to celebrate Lebanon’s proud Francophone past and present. Hosted by the French Institute of Lebanon at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure Center, this year’s edition will honor Lebanese politician Samir Frangieh, who passed away earlier this year.

“We must congratulate ourselves for having such an important event in Lebanon,” Alexandre Lemasson, Salon du Livre general commissioner and director of the bureau du livre, told The Daily Star, “especially with the homage to Samir Frangieh, who incarnates all the values of this Francophone public.”

Opening Nov. 4, SdL will host 57 exhibitors, presenting works by some 180 authors. In parallel to the selling, the event will stage 41 activities – debates, conferences and award ceremonies.

With more than 80,000 visitors to 2016’s SdL, the 2017 fair is expected to draw even bigger flocks of Francophone book enthusiasts.

The curtain was raised on SdL during a news conference held in Beirut earlier this month with several local and international representatives of the Francophone world.

“Belgium has been participating in the Salon du Livre Francophone for 24 years,” said Jeroen Dubois, first secretary of Belgium’s cultural and political foreign affairs section.

“This loyalty portrays our attachment to the event, and particularly to the Francophone community in Lebanon and the region. Belgium plays an important role in diffusing Francophone books, especially in the graphic novel sector. ... The presence of our stands, edition houses and books at the Salon symbolizes Belgium’s French community.”

This year’s edition of SdL is rich in politics, with plans to stage debates and talks to stimulate audience engagement.

Topics of discussion include globalization, orientalism, history, translation and the arts.

The panel discussion on Frangieh will include several discussants, including Lebanese academic Gilbert Achcar. Other panels will focus on Dominique Edde’s book “Edward Said, le roman de sa pensee” and Henry Laurens’ “Les crises d’Orient.”

Bernard Py will lead a discussion on the politics of translation, while Salah Stetie will reflect on the architectural history of Lebanon’s “Residence des Pins,” which has known a variety of functions, from casino to French ambassador’s residence.

“It’s always with great pleasure that AUF associates itself to an event that celebrates the vivacity and capacity of the Francophone community,” Herve Sabourin, director of the Middle East regional bureau of the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, told the news conference.

“It promotes the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of the Francophone world.

“With its discussions and debates, [SdL] is one of the most important Salons du Livre in the world. It showcases a humanist, modern, dynamic and open Francophone image. The massive numbers of attendees proves that the Francophone community is relevant in Lebanon.”

The most significant award ceremony of SdL sees the presentation of Le Choix Goncourt de l’Orient.

Sabourin sang the praises of Le Choix, noting that the all-student jury is composed of a record-breaking “39 jury members [from] 33 universities in the region, and 12 represented countries.”

“This year, we welcome the participation of [an Ethiopian university], another Iranian university, two additional Jordanian universities, and two supplementary Iraqi universities,” Sabourin said.

“I can’t help but joyously cite the return of the University of Mosul. It’s amazing to see students from Palestine, Damascus, Cairo, Damal [Turkey], Djibouti, Baghdad, Khartoum, Beirut and other cities interacting with one another.”

This year’s edition of SdL promises many additional activities to interest and entertain children of all ages, touching on a diverse range of areas including music, art, cinema and gastronomy, and encouraging a young readership.

The diversity creates multidisciplinary links among Lebanese, Franco-Lebanese and international literature. This can be seen through the numerous and varied events planned throughout the eight days.

There will be a projection of short films – including Wissam Charaf’s “Hizz ya wizz” and Cyril Dion’s documentary “Demain.” A “Gastronomy Square” will be accompanied by food-tasting. SdL’s poetry night will feature Leila Slimani, among other notable writers.

Parents hoping to enjoy the event may be pleased to learn that a new “I Play” nursery space will be in place to distract young children.

Salon du Livre Francophone 24 promises a marriage of cultural and political themes with fun Francophone celebration.

Salon du Livre Francophone 2017 will run Nov. 4 through Nov. 12 at BIEL. For more, visit www.sdlivrebeyrouth.com.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 26, 2017, on page 16.

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