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Book Fair, an age with the age of a girl

Book Fair, an age with the age of a girl

Alfred Lela

Mayor Erion Veliaj was at the awards ceremony of the Book Fair 2021. With the right of the sponsor of the Fair, he gave the main prize of the Jury awarded to the writer Virgjil Muçi for the book "Fajin ma ka gjuha". Both the president of the Publishers' Association and the mayor spoke at the ceremony for the "biggest" help that was expected and will be given by the Municipality in the future.

What and how it will be was not said.

But, what is missing or not going was said by the Fair itself, as its predecessors have said. First, the Book Fair is one of the most important cultural events of the year in the country. For the author of these lines are the most important, because the book remains the highest form of culture. Having said that, the other thing must be said: that the Book Fair, as it is organized, conceived, and formatted until today, does not convey the mission in question.

Going back in time, with imagination, little change is seen in its conception, not only as distribution and sales but also as a cultural dialogue between readers, writers, and critics.

The two environments where book promotions can and do take place inside the Fair are two corners, no bigger than an apartment room in communist times, both 'occupied' by the two biggest publishers, Onufri and Toena. The fair thus ceases to be a place of contact and dialogue, it resembles a bus stop more than an aula magna of the book.

There have been attempts to incorporate a coffee at the Fair, but all have failed early, for one reason or another. Who says what coffee should remember its importance in the literary lives of important cultural capitals, like Paris, Berlin, or New York. Because the Book Fair is also the literary atmosphere before it was commercial, or a case of publishers not to give booksellers 30 percent for sold copies or state tax. And they are not to blame, because in this country, at the end of the day, authors and publishers earn less than booksellers and state tax collectors.

The Palace of Congresses has a ground floor and perhaps here, after a refurbishment and transformative lighting, the next coffee editions and a ‘promotion square’ could be relocated, which could be accessible to all publishers. I understand that the mayor is busy decorating only what appears from the outside, but it is time to spend the money he gives for the Fair for his dignity. Many things have changed in Tirana, but the Book Fair continues to resemble itself in the mid-1990s.

Or, the Fair be taken out of the Palace of Congresses and accommodated in another space. Whether in the open air, as in Mother Teresa or Skanderbeg Square, still respecting some aesthetic principles. If space allows, when the reconstruction of Pirmaida is completed, it does not become mourning for such an event, for four days a year, to be housed there.

Given that after a year the Fair turns 25 this would be a good opportunity for a new shelter.

Of course, this is not the biggest problem of the book, as the authors and publishers know, but at least four days a year, both they and the readers, let them be happy with the book and with each other.

The Fair and the environment where it takes place look so old, every time I enter or leave its doors, it seems to me as if Ramiz Alia will appear to me, hurrying to enter the hall of the 10th Congress of the ALP.


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