Back in the sad­dle

Bei­jingers wel­come the 2018 re­turn of the Book­worm In­ter­na­tional Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - FRONT PAGE - By Zhang Xinyuan

Ever since the Book­worm Bei­jing book­store post­poned and later can­celed its an­nual Book­worm In­ter­na­tional Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val (BLF) fans have been wait­ing and won­der­ing whether the 10-year-old event would re­turn.

Well, the wait is

over as ac­cord­ing to Peter Goff, the gen­eral man­ager of the Book­worm, the BLF will be back in full swing from March 8 to 24 in 2018 in Bei­jing, Chengdu and Suzhou. It’s still too early to con­firm the authors who will be at­tend­ing, but Goff said that fans could ex­pect authors like Yu Hua, Liu Jian­jun and Xi Chuan to be in at­ten­dance. He said

the fes­ti­val also in­vited for­eign writ­ers from coun­tries like Croa­tia, Ser­bia and the Czech Re­pub­lic to help read­ers un­der­stand those coun­tries better.better “They have all been in­vited. We are just wait­ing to check their avail­abil­ity,” Goff said.

The next BLF will con­tinue to bring more peo­ple from dif­fer­ent cul­tural back­grounds and in­tro­duce dif­fer­ent types of lit­er­ary gen­res to the Chi­nese com­mu­nity, ac­cord­ing to Goff.

“Lit­er­a­ture is some­thing for ev­ery­one. Some­times peo­ple think only a cer­tain type of per­son will go to a book talk, but there’s a lot of di­ver­sity,” he said.

“The BLF aims to show­case the same di­ver­sity. We look for authors from dif­fer­ent parts of the world, with dif­fer­ent voices and who rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent gen­res, such as fic­tion, non­fic­tion, China ex­perts, per­for­mance po­etry, short fic­tion and ex­per­i­men­tal verse.” First staged in 2007, the BLF has steadily grown into Bei­jing’s main in­de­pen­dently funded lit­er­ary fes­ti­val and has brought an im­pres­sive mix of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional writ­ers to the cap­i­tal. For the past 10 years, more than 4,000 writ­ers have spo­ken at the book­store, which is of­ten the pri­mary lo­ca­tion for the fes­ti­val. About 80 per­cent of the writ­ers are for­eign­ers, and 20 per­cent are lo­cals, said Goff.

Time to re­group

Book-savvy Bei­jingers know that the writ­ten word takes over the city in spring ev­ery year, so when the BLF didn’t hap­pen this year, they were quite dis­ap­pointed.

“March has al­ways been my fa­vorite time of the year in Bei­jing,” said Frank from the UK, a self-pro­fessed book fan who has never missed an event dur­ing his four years of liv­ing in the city.

“I was quite sad when I re­al­ized that the Book­worm wouldn’t host a lit­er­ary fes­ti­val this year.”

Ac­cord­ing to Frank, who is also an editor at a life­style mag­a­zine, “The BLF makes a sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tion to the brand­ing of Bei­jing as a cos­mopoli­tan cul­tural cap­i­tal. It is a ‘name card’ for Bei­jing. With­out it, it feels as if Bei­jingBei has lost a touch of its cul­tural at­mos­phere.”

Goff saids that af­ter 10 years of host­ing the BLF, they wanted to take a break and think about howho to take the fe

“It’s e ex­pen­sive to run the fes­ti­val; it never makes a profit. So we wanted to re­group, find some suit­a­ble­sui spon­sor­sand try to break even,” Goff said,said laugh­ing.

“We area cur­rently ex­plor­ing sev­eral ways and means­mea to sus­tain an de­velop the fes­ti­val.”

Another rea­son, he said was a lack of ad­e­quate staff. A few its staff mem­bers have of left, so theth book­store is try­ing to put to­gether a new team to run the BLF

Al­though there was no BLF this year Book­worm with other or­ga­niza- Book­wor co­op­er­ated w tions to hosth lit­er­ary eve have a lotlo to look for­warr to.

One suchs event is the Be­jjing In­ter­na­tional Book Fair (BIBF) Lit­er­ary Salons. which will run from Au­gust 20 to 27

The Book­worm, in co­op­er­a­tion with the China Na­tional Publi­ca­toins Im­port and Ex­port (Group) Cor­po­ra­tion (CNPIEC) will co­or­di­nate a series of lit­er­ary salons fea­tur­ing lead­ing Chi­nese and in­ter­na­tional writer at the Bei­jing In­ter­na­tiona and the Book­worm for t

Fol­low­ing that, a new by the Del­e­ga­tion of the China will see the Bookw in­au­gu­ral EU-China Int Fes­ti­val from Novem­ber will bring to­gether write Union and China for a series of pub­lic events

show­cas­ing the EU and China’s finest lit­er­ary tal­ents. The first fes­ti­val will visit Bei­jing and Chengdu. Sub­se­quent fes­ti­vals will be held in dif­fer­ent cities.

Book­worm’s his­tory

A for­mer Guardian jour­nal­ist, Goff and his then part­ner started the book­store, called the San­l­i­tun Book­store at the time, in 2003 out of per­sonal in­ter­est. His pas­sion for books and meet­ing writ­ers led Goff and his part­ner to host salons, which later be­came the foun­da­tion for the lit­er­ary fes­ti­val.

The Chi­nese so­ci­ety has pro­gressed so much now, but 10 years ago, there wasn’t a land­scape where salons, pub­lic talks and dis­cus­sions could reg­u­larly be hosted, Goff re­called.

“As the econ­omy de­vel­ops, more peo­ple are will­ing to move to China to see the coun­try by them­selves and live here, and more ex­pats and lo­cal Chi­nese are will­ing to join the dis­cus­sion about what’s go­ing on around them. It’s a very im­por­tant part of a so­ci­ety,” Goff said.

“A book­store shouldn’t be just a place to sell books. It should be a com­mu­nity space, a plat­form where writ­ers and read­ers can get to­gether and share ideas, de­bate and be in­spired, [a place where] ev­ery­one can have an op­por­tu­nity to deepen their un­der­stand­ing of the world we live in.”

In the be­gin­ning, the au­di­ence was made up of mostly ex­pats be­cause the event is hosted mainly in English and the con­cept of salons and lit­er­ary dis­cus­sions was al­ready well es­tab­lished in Western coun­tries.

How­ever, in re­cent years, Goff has seen an in­crease in the num­ber of lo­cal writ­ers and au­di­ence par­tic­i­pa­tion.

“When the BLF just started, it was al­most 90 per­cent ex­pats and only 10 per­cent lo­cals,” Goff said.

“But now, the pro­por­tion of for­eign­ers to lo­cals is al­most half and half, es­pe­cially in Chengdu and Suzhou where there are more lo­cals in the au­di­ence.”

The dawn of a ‘golden age’

The sale of con­ven­tional books might be falling glob­ally, and book­stores might be clos­ing down amid the rise of dig­i­tal gad­gets, but ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the printed word in Bei­jing is buck­ing the trend due to a boom driven by its vi­brant lit­er­ary scene, ac­cord­ing to Goff.

“Ac­cord­ing to my ob­ser­va­tion, I be­lieve the fu­ture of lit­er­a­ture is in China,” Goff said.

A lot of peo­ple around the world are pay­ing at­ten­tion to Chi­nese creations, not the works about old times but works about what’s hap­pen­ing in China, he added.

More young peo­ple in China are pub­lish­ing nov­els and po­etry on­line, and more young Chi­nese are read­ing on­line com­pared to other coun­tries.

“There used to be a limited num­ber of pub­lish­ing agen­cies and only a small num­ber of peo­ple could get their work pub­lished,” Goff said.

“But with on­line tech­nol­ogy, ev­ery­one can get their work out there, and the con­tent they cre­ate is be­ing pub­lished and adapted into movies and on­line TV series. It’s un­prece­dented and very ex­cit­ing.”

Com­par­ing the au­di­ence make up be­tween China and the Western world, Goff said that the peo­ple in­ter­ested in books in China tended to be younger and more bal­anced be­tween men and women, while in Europe and North Amer­ica the au­di­ence mostly com­prises women over 60.

“In China, the male to fe­male pro­por­tions are equal, and they are mostly young peo­ple with a good ed­u­ca­tional back­ground who are cu­ri­ous about the world,” he said.

“Also, [with] more in­de­pen­dent and govern­ment-funded book­stores be­ing opened across China, those book­stores and their cul­tural events are go­ing to be­come a new at­trac­tion and cul­tural name card for China.”

Photo: Zhang Xinyuan/GT

For­eign­styled Chi­nese ex­pres­sions be­come in­creas­ing com­mon as more peo­ple are learn­ing Chi­nese as a sec­ond lan­guage. Peter Goff, the gen­eral man­ager of Book­worm Bei­jing and or­ga­nizer of the Book­worm In­ter­na­tional Lit­er­ary, inside the Book­worm.

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