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August 17, 2011

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Books, glorious books

THE Shanghai Book Fair opens today, with a long list of literary luminaries from China and around the world. Yao Minji checks the table of contents.

Readers, writers, aspiring writers, illustrators, publishers, book sellers and anyone who loves books will be at the Shanghai Book Fair from today through next Tuesday.

The cultural and commercial event will be held at the Shanghai Exhibition Center, the Shanghai Writers' Association and venues scattered across the city.

The theme of the fair is "I Love Books, I Love Life - Carry on Traditions and Write Glorious New Chapters." Over eight years the fair has become one of China's most prestigious cultural events.

Last year's fair broke its previous records for both the number of visitors, 25,200, and sales revenues of nearly 31 million yuan (US$5 million) at the main venue.

The event is organized by 500 publishers from around China; it attracts publishers from around the world who want to buy Chinese titles and enter the China publishing market.

More than 150,000 books in Chinese and other languages will be on sale. More than 100 literary and other cultural celebrities will be on hand.

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio, French Nobel Prize winner in literature in 2008, is among a dozen foreign writers who will hold lectures, panels and book-signing sessions.

The 68-year-old novelist, children's author and essayist will address the opening ceremony on the theme "Reading and Life."

Known for his new parabolic writing style, Le Clezio was acclaimed by the Nobel Prize Committee as "an author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, an explorer of humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization." He was cited for his body of work that focuses on the environment, particularly the desert.

He has written more than 40 works, including "The Interrogation," "Desert," "Wandering Star" and a number of them have been released by the People's Literature Publishing House and Shanghai Translation Publishing House. They are available at the event. His work "Ourania" was honored in 2008 as one of the best foreign novels since 2000 by the People's Literature Publishing House. He visited Beijing at that time. This is his first visit to Shanghai.

Apart from the opening ceremony and book-signing sessions, Le Clezio is the main guest of the Shanghai International Literary Week, a highlight of this year's book fair.

The week's events, titled "Literature and Cities' Future," includes panels, seminars, recitals and discussions by well-known figures from China and abroad.

They include multiple award-winning Irish novelist Colm Toibin; British novelist and journalist Jeanette Winterson; 2010 Man Asia Literary Prize winner Bi Feiyu from China ("Corn" or "Three Sisters"); Japanese novelist Masahiko Shimada; and famous Shanghai female writer Wang Anyi, among others.

Highlights include daily cross-cultural panels and discussions between Chinese and foreign writers on topics in literature.

Toibin, who has been short-listed for the Booker Prize in successive years, was recently named one of Britain's top 300 intellectuals by The Observer.

His work explores Irish society and personal identity, especially homosexual identity, as in "Love in a Dark Time: Gay Lives From Wilde to Almodovar" (1999).

His latest long novel "Brooklyn," long-listed for the 2009 Booker Prize, was translated and published in China last summer. The author will discuss how to read and write short novels with Wang Anyi, famous local writer and chairwoman of the Shanghai Writers' Association.

Wang is known for her vivid and detailed descriptions about lives in Shanghai, where most of her novels are set. A number of her novels have been translated and published in English.

The list includes her most famous "The Everlasting Regret" (2005), which traces the life of a Shanghai woman from her glamorous youth in the 1940s to her death after the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976).

Another highlight of the fair is the Shanghai International Children's Book Carnival, featuring children's books, authors and interactive activities from all over the world.

The Shanghai Press and Publications Bureau, the book fair's organizer, has also distributed 20,000 tickets to local disadvantaged groups, including the children of migrant workers.

A German series of detective stories for children, "Kommissar Kugelblitz," or Detective Ball Lightning, will be launched in Chinese with its official Chinese website.

As the name suggests, the main character Detective Ball Lightning is as round as a ball and as quick as a lightning flash.

Created by early education expert Ursel Scheffler, the detective with a true sense of humor solves all kinds of criminal cases through careful observations and investigations. Eight of the total of 38 detective volumes will be translated and published by end of this year; the others are expected to be published soon.

Date: August 17-18, 22-23, 9am-6pm; August 19-21, 9am-9pm Venue: Shanghai Exhibition Center, 1000 Yan'an Rd M.Admission: 10 yuan (5 yuan at night, free for seniors over 70 with ID)

Event highlights

'Adventure of a Writer'

- On works of Le Clezio

Guests: J.M.G. Le Clezio, Bi Feiyu, Huang Yuhai, Xu Jun, others.

Date: Today, 3-5pm

Venue: 1/F, Shanghai Exhibition Center

Colm Toibin Talks with Wang Anyi

- On reading and creating short stories

Guests: Colm Toibin, Wang Anyi, Huang Yuhai

Date: August 18, 10-11:30am

Venue: Shanghai Writers' Association, 675 Julu Rd

'Jeanette Winterson and Her Fiction World'

- Winterson talks with translators

Guests: Jeanette Winterson, Zhou Jianing, Zhang Yueran, others

Date: August 21, 7-9pm

Venue: West side of Shanghai Exhibition Center

'Masahiko Shimada Talks to Sun Ganlu'

- On literature and cities' future

Guests: Shimada Masahiko, Sun Ganlu

Date: August 22, 9:30-11:30am

Venue: 4/F, Shanghai Exhibition Center


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