I love books and I hate crowds. I went to the Bogota book fair hoping
to see more of the former than of the latter, but picking a holiday was
a big mistake. The good news is that when it comes to books, the people
of Bogota appear to be crazy about them. The pavilions with book
displays — and there were many — were thronged with persons of doubtful
intelligence and confirmed inconsiderateness ambling through in large
numbers. Not a peaceful sort of place, but then what kind of fair is?
Ochlophobist is the term to use for a person with an absolute
horror of crowds. I suppose I’m only borderline since I managed to
stay, but I understood why there was a woman pushing a cart selling
hard liquor inside Corferias. If only I were a drinker! And beside the
liquor cart with a three year-old sitting on the top as her mother
trundled through the mob what else was there to see? Lots of books in
Spanish, and even a few books in English, and the mob browsing,
scarfing fair food, behaving in ways decidedly anti-intellectual,
gawking at exhibits, listening to caterwauled Colombian traditional
music, and getting in my way.
I’m a bibliophile, besides
being a borderline ochlophobist, and so even though the view was
obstructed by the crowds packed into warmish buildings, it was good to
see so many books, so many publishing houses, so many distributors.
Truly, there are a lot. Not knowing much of the Spanish language and
Latin American publishing industry, I still managed to find some
bargains and come away with some modest additions to my library.
At the fair one can also encounter living statues, promotions for
Tigo, hard liquor—surely of unimpeachable literary pedigree, as well as
posters for such greats of literature as Michael Jackson and Kurt
Kobain, games and puzzles, recorded books and movies, exhibits of
dubious literary connection, and you can find all kinds of magazine
distributors, besides half a dozen restaurants.
Many nations were represented. The German publishers bring a lot of
expensive English books to this country, and expensive other books.
There is also a place called Authors (which has a store at 5th and 70
here in Bogota, as well as being in El Tesoro in Medellin) that carries
English books. They had some bargains at the fair and all the latest.
Interesting, in the university pavilion, was the participation not
only of regional universities, but of outlets for regional publications
from various departments—probably as part of a ministry of the
department. Besides this, there was a whole pavilion dedicated to
Mexico. I browsed the philosophy section and found such eminent Mexican
philosophers as Immanuel Kant and Karl Marx—which reminds me that I saw
an awful lot of Che Guevara books, though perhaps not in the Mexican
pavilion. I think Che Geuvara was prominent in the juvenile section.
Speaking of the juvenile section, I know I am not the only person
in this world enthusiastic about Tintin books. There they were, sets in
Spanish and sets in English for the usual fifteen bucks or so. Perhaps
there were sets in other languages, maybe Herge’s own French, but I did
not notice them. Nevertheless, you know it is a good book fair, the
crowds notwithstanding, when you can find Tintin and Aristotle under
the same roof.