Havana’s cultural life picks up pace every February with the coming of the International Book Fair (Feria Internacional del Libro/FIL), which this year celebrates its 28th edition.
The nation invited this year as country of honour is the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, and the Fair will also pay homage to the work of Cuban writer and winner of the National Prize for Literature (2014) and Publishing (2001), Eduardo Heras León. Of the 43 confirmed countries in attendance, those with the largest number of representatives will be Algeria, Argentina, Mexico, United States and Chile.
Professionals from 23 Latin American nations are on the attendance list, though it also includes intellectuals from across the globe. 120 exhibitors from two dozen countries are expected to attend, along with 354 authors and publishing industry professionals.
The Fair is a forum envisaged and designed for the display, commercialisation and promotion of the best that Cuban and foreign literature has to offer, thus it becomes a point of contact between the public and the authors and renowned academics who headline the varied and packed programme of events.
Book launches, workshops, lectures and roundtable discussions take place alongside a varied culture and arts programme.
During the Fair, there will be prizegivings to award the prizes in Literature, Publishing, Design, History, the Nicolás Guillén Poetry Laureate and the Alejo Carpentier novel, short story and essay prizes, among others.
The 28th edition of FIL is dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the Triumph of the Cuban Revolution and to the quincentenary of Havana’s founding.
Authors, editors, translators, designers, illustrators, distributors and the general public will throng the diverse spaces of the Fortaleza de San Carlo de la Cabaña, an extensive cultural and museum space in the capital that is the Fair’s main venue.
Impossible to pack everything into one venue given the rich programme of academic, artistic and literary events, so the FIL will use additional sites in the Pabellón Cuba, Casa del ALBA Cultural, the José Martí National Library, the University of Havana and the Dulce María Loynaz Cultural Centre.
This last venue will host the ninth Meeting of Young Latin American and Caribbean Writers, welcoming participants from these regions and elsewhere in the world.
Likewise, the Cuban Writers’ and Artists’ Union (UNEAC), the Vicente Revuelta Centre and the Casa de las Américas will function as secondary locations for events, alongside other institutions.
The FIL’s literary programme director, Edel Morales, has organised various talks, panels and lectures, including one dedicated to highlighting the work of Heras León, whose books will be on sale there and at various points around the festival. Once again, the children’s pavillion Tesoro de Papel (Paper Treasures) will showcase work aimed at this age group and young adults, with additional activities to complement learning and leisure.
For his part, Juan Rodríguez Cabrera president of the Cuban Book Institute confirmed the Fair’s ban on alcohol and principles of organisation, peacefulness, and a high rate of public attendance, facilitated by dedicated bus services to and from the main venue.
Supporting this ethos, more than 600 new releases will draw the public to this year’s FIL and they will be offered at very low prices, the aim being to reduce the average price of a volume to less than 50 American cents (sold in the Cuban national currency, of course). Digital books and products like minibooks, maps and more, will enhance the offering.
The event’s organisers look forward to the visit of the Instituto Cervantes president and of members of the Ibero-American Society of Publishers, that Cuba has recently been elected vicepresident of. The group, founded in 1978, represents the publishing industries in Latin America, Spain and Portugal and is meeting in Havana for the first time.