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August 19, 2015

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Fair draws big names in world literature

THE Shanghai Book Fair opens today at the Shanghai Exhibition Center. The event will bring hundreds of publishers, writers and cultural figures together with throngs of local book lovers.

Renowned Chinese and foreign writers will take part in signings, dialogues and panel discussions during the event, which is set to conclude next Tuesday.

Organizers say the fair will be more international than in previous years.

This year, for instance, will see the first attendance of global publishing giant Penguin Random House.

As before, the fair will also include International Literary Week, a series of events designed to highlight foreign writers and international talent.

One highlight of the fair is its main panel, which will center on communication and interaction between Eastern and Western literature. Also scheduled is a poetry night and the award ceremony for the Irish-Chinese Literature Translation Prize.

Nearly 30 foreign authors and literary figures will attend the fair, including American writer Gish Jen, Spanish novelist Enrique Vila-Matas, German sinologist Michael Kahn Ackermann and British illustrator Alan Lee, among others.

Born in 1955, Jen’s work has appeared in The New Yorker and The Atlantic and The New York Times as well as anthologies including The Best American Short Stories of the Century.

Jen is a second generation American whose parents emigrated from China in the 1940s. Her mother was from Shanghai and her father from Yixing, Jiangsu Province. Born in Long Island, Jen later graduated from Harvard University in 1977 with a BA in English.

In 2013 Jen published her first non-fiction book, entitled “Tiger Writing: Art, Culture, and the Interdependent Self.”

The book explores East-West differences in self-construction and their reflection in art, especially in literature.

Jen will attend a launch event for the book as well as a signing at the exhibition center. The writer will also take part in a dialogue on American stories at Sinan Mansions, the main venue of International Literary Week.

As an A-list novelist, Spanish writer Enrique Vila-Matas has seen his work translated into 11 languages and honored by numerous prestigious literary awards including the Prix Médicis Etranger.

“His tools are irony, parody, paradox, and futility, and his goal is to mix fact, fiction, and autobiography in order to depict not reality but truth,” the Paris Review once wrote of Vila Matas.

Vila-Matas’ major novel “Dublinesque” tells the story of a renowned and now retired literary publisher who has a vivid dream that takes place in Dublin, a city he’s never been to.

Vila-Matas will attend the main panel of International Literary Week during the book fair.

For fantasy fans, this year’s book fair will also feature Alan Lee, the award-winning conceptual artist behind “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy.

Lee has also illustrated recent editions of J.R.R. Tolkien’s beloved books, including the Tolkien centenary edition of “The Lord of the Rings” (1995) and a 1999 edition of “The Hobbit.”

Aside from his relationship with Tolkien’s work, Lee has also done illustrations for classics like “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey,” and Peter Dickinson’s “Merlin Dreams.”

Lee will be sharing the secrets of Middle Earth when he meets fans today at Sinan Mansion.

This year’s fair will focus on digital reading and e-books, which are becoming increasingly popular among local readers.

According to a recent survey by the Shanghai Press and Publishing Bureau, 31 percent of respondents say they prefer reading on screens over printed material, up from 28 percent a year earlier. In response to this trend, the fair will feature a digital reading room as well as information on digital book purchasing, apps and more.

Book Fair

Date: August 19-25, 8:45am-8:30pm

Admission: 10 yuan


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