A “Salone of surprises” is how I would describe this year’s Salone Internazionale del Libro, Turin International Book Fair, from May 18 to 22.
Directed by Strega Prize winner Nicola Lagioia and a team of professionals from Italy’s independent publishing companies, it was an inclusive, all-embracing fair, as Lagioia had intended it to be, of the utmost caliber, five days in which quality and choice kept attendance high, and even drew in a new, curious audience.
The torrents of readers who thronged around the doors of the Lingotto site were proof of this fact, sparking endless queues. It goes to show that when you develop a program that refuses to stoop to the mainstream but that focuses on content, people feel—and get—involved. The meeting rooms were full, applause echoed throughout the pavilions not just for writers Daniel Pennac, Jonathan Lethem, Mathias Énard, Annie Ernaux and Paco Ignacio Taibo II but also for authors lesser known to the wider public.
Translator Johanna Bishop receives her copy of TheFLR2 Desire
Among these replete rooms our magazine carved its niche, with an engaged and upbeat audience at the launch of TheFLR Issue Two Desire. In fact, so many people turned up at the presentation by authors Marco Rossari and Edgardo Franzosini that a security guard stood his ground outside, turning latecomers away: “The room’s full. You can’t go in.”
Copies of TheFLR kindly hosted at the LiberAria stand sold out in just a few hours. Along the corridors we bumped into readers—practically subscribers!—enamored by issues one and two, and plenty of people who wanted to find out more, yes, future aficionados! This too was thanks to the atmosphere of inclusion engendered by Lagioia, an atmosphere that took flight in the Superfestival area, which showcased the finest literary festivals in Italy, including Florence’s Firenze Rivista, and at the COLTI Consortium of Independent Bookstores in Turin stand.
Forget yogurt brands and food stands with their gadgets and “goodies”—gimmicks of the past played no part in the success of the 2017 Salone. This year’s was a festival for readers, bibliophiles looking for the new voices of Italian literature and bilingual horizons. A festival of fresh air: in a country where people who read at least one title a year are a rarity, 160,000 people at a book fair bring hope—and happiness.