BEIRUT: Arabic, English and French have long been part of Lebanese culture. With the multilingual “hi, kifak, ca va” a familiar greeting, mingling the three languages in one sentence, and switching between them with ease has become common practice.
Even as younger generations seem drawn to English, French has maintained its status here as a rich language, and an important if controversial component of Lebanon’s history.
This year, the 18th Beirut Francophone Book Fair will take place mostly at the Beirut International Exhibition and Leisure center (BIEL). From this Saturday until Nov. 6, the center will be filled with conferences, book signings, readings, and exhibitions.
This year’s edition has gathered together authors and personalities from Europe, North Africa and Lebanon. But its guest of honor is the Belgian region of Walloon-Brussels, launching, for this specific occasion, the fifth volume of “Belgium New Architecture,” a book written by several architects and dealing with the latest architectural concepts in Belgium.
With 25 different Belgian authors in town such as Jeanne Asbe, Philippe Berthet and Regis Duque – to name a few – Belgium plans to show that it plays an important part in the francophone cultural and literary field.
Founded in 1997, Assabil – the Friends of Public Libraries – will host several readings for children Oct. 30-31. Animated by Randa Abou al-Hosn and Rana Khalil, these readings will give children the opportunity to discover (or re-discover) the pleasure of listening to enchanting tales.
On Nov. 4, adults will also be treated to storytelling of a kind at the Schehade Publishing stand, as Abdo Wazen reads texts by the late Lebanese author Andree Chedid.
For those fond of poetry, BIEL’s Gibran Hall will play host to several readings Nov. 3. Poets Ezza Agha Malak and Karen Boustany together will read some of their works, accompanied by guitarist Evelyne Accad.
On the same day, students from several Lebanese universities, along with Lebanese author and cultural journalist Joumana Haddad, will debate “Jeunesse libanaise et mots de la liberte,” on the role and vision of youngsters in today’s society.
For the whole week, the French Institute of Lebanon and the French publishing house Gallimard will display an exhibition of texts and book covers by famous French writers.
From Oct. 31 to Nov. 3, the Lebanese National Higher Conservatory of Music will perform at the Agora stand.
Another musical event on offer is a performance by the eclectic jazz band Paris Combo, at Downtown’s Music Hall Oct. 31.
Visitors will also have the opportunity to have their favorite books signed. The internationally renowned French writer Marc Levy, author of the bestseller “Est si c’etait vrai” (If only it were true) will sign his 12th and latest novel “L’Etrange Voyage de Monsieur Daldry,” on the first day of the fair at the Virgin Megastore stand.
“L’Etrange Voyage de Monsieur Daldry” plunges the reader into a world where a certain Alice – following the predictions of a psychic – goes on a difficult journey from London to Istanbul, accompanied by her neighbor Mr. Daldry, in order to seek her fate.
And of course, this book fair also promotes Lebanese authors. Youmna Medlej will sign her work “Decouvrons Tripoli.” As for Alexandre Najjar, best known for his outstanding works on writer Ameen Rihani, he will be present Oct. 30 to sign his latest, and very timely, work entitled “Kadhafi: Anatomie d’un tyran” (Ghadafi: the Anatomy of a Tyrant).
The Beirut Francophone Book Fair will run Oct. 29 until Nov. 6 at BIEL. For more information, please call 01-995-555.