A patchwork series of literary events

Goncourt Academician Pivot will be at the book fair for its 20th anniversary.

BEIRUT: It has been 20 years since the Beirut Francophone Book Fair first took possession of the capital.

Promoting the sharing of ideas and dialogue between cultures, the literary event is now the third ranked French language book fair internationally – behind Paris and Montreal. Organized by the French Institute, this year’s Beirut Francophone Book Fair will open its doors from Friday until Nov. 4 in BIEL.

Last year’s edition was held under the theme “the words of freedom.” This year, by contrast, doesn’t have a theme, but a special guest aims to make the 2012 Beirut Francophone Book Fair an exceptional event – the prestigious French literary organization “Academie Goncourt.”

Since 1903, the academy has announced the laureate from a selection of authors and books each year. Composed of 10 members, the group meets to discuss who deserves the “Prix Goncourt” and will see their book not only published, but catapulted to a bestseller.

Members of the academy chose eight novels on Oct. 8, including Jerome Ferrari’s “Le Sermon sur la Chute de Rome” (The Sermon on Rome’s Fall), Mathias Enard’s “Rue des Voleurs” (Street of Thieves) and Vassilis Alexakis’ “L’Enfant Grec” (The Greek Child).

On Oct. 30, certain members of the organization (Edmonde Charles-Roux, Tahar Ben Jelloun, Dider Decoin, Pierre Assouline, Regis Debray and Bernard Pivot) will select four novels from the list, with this year’s “Prix Goncourt” laureate being announced in Paris on Nov. 7.

Another competition – “Le Choix de L’Orient” (The Choice of the East) – is also scheduled to take place.

In partnership with the “Bureau du Moyen-Orient de l’Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie” (Middle East Office of the Francophone Academic Agency), this prize is announced by a team of 18 students from five universities across the Middle East, who will reveal their choice of winner from the list of eight authors chosen by the Goncourt Academy.

Throughout the book fair’s duration, tribute will be paid to diplomat, poet, author and essayist Salah Stétié. Born in Beirut in 1929, Stétié chose to write in French although Arabic was his mother tongue. Stétié’s literary impact will be discussed at a round table on Nov. 2.

Eight publishing houses – including Librairie El Bourj and Librairie Antoine – will be present to show their selection of books.

Lebanese literature aficionados will have the opportunity to meander in the alleys and look for writing wonders.

Attendees will also have the opportunity to see the 40-square-meter mural by French artist Julien Sole – a piece he made specifically to mark the 20 years of the book fair.

This artwork, representing the artist’s vision of Beirut, is be made from 4,000 paper sheets – taken from books and archives – anointed with watercolor.

This year’s edition of the literary fair seems to place more importance on artistic events than in previous years.

An exhibition entitled “Le Liban en 360 degres” (Lebanon in 360 degrees) will showcase 20 photographs on the country’s cultural and natural heritage, as well as its history.

Local and international filmmakers have the chance to see their works on Genevan philosopher and writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau screened.

Ranging from documentaries to animated-features, 50 short films were chosen to honor the tercentenary of Rousseau’s birth.

Those who like their literary skills to be challenged should attend French journalist and cultural icon Bernard Pivot’s spelling test on Nov. 4, at 4 p.m. The results revealing who wrote in the most perfect French will be announced the same day at 5:30 p.m.

Many more interesting events are scheduled for the Francophone Book Fair. But one thing is for sure – this year’s edition will be physically and mentally titillating. Children, parents, students – everyone will find what they are looking for.

The “Francophone Book Fair” will be up at BIEL from Oct. 26 to Nov. 4. For more information, please visit

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 23, 2012, on page 16.




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