Bok & Bibliotek, Göteborg Book Fair 2013

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At the Göteborg Book Fair 2013.
Text & Photo © JE Nilsson, CM Cordeiro 2013

It’s been a few years, since 2008, that I’ve found myself at the annual Gothenburg Book Fair, one of the Nordic regions largest market place for the book trade that began as a trading platform for teachers and librarians. Since opening their doors in 1985 with just 5,000 visitors, the book fair has today, more than 101,000 visitors over four days, with three parallel running sessions of conferences, seminars and events, alongside sales stands and an International Rights Centre for agents and publishers. The book fair celebrates their 29th anniversary this year at the Swedish Exhibition and Congress Centre.

While I looked forward to exploring the narrow pathways of the exhibits with shelves of books, that for a bookish academic would be an excursion of the mind that could be compared to the excursion of taste whilst visiting a chocolate factory, I am not one for crowded spaces and dreaded the thought of having to sidestep and dodge swinging hands, bags and worse, coffee mugs in hands.

It was after office hours on a Friday evening, and just about an hour or two before the book fair closed for the day. The snaking queue of cars around the exhibition centre indicated that quite a few would be spending their Friday evening right here, with books. Upon arrival at the site, I approached the convention centre halls, cautiously.

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Meta, and a cautious approach towards the in-between lanes of the exhibits?

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At the Research Square, a talk on Medieval manuscripts.

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Professor of Philosophy and History of Science David Durén from Lund University discussing philosophies of nature. Working and coordinating cross-disciplinary projects, Durén has written extensively about Linnaeus, with research interests in etymology and astrobiology.

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Sweden’s National Secretariat for Gender Research, together with the University of Gothenburg has a MeetingPoint booth that holds discussions on gender research development and conditions. Swedish feminist politician Gudrun Schyman (pictured left) who was the leader of the Swedish Left-wing party from 1993 to 2003 and Swedish Member of Parliament till 2006, was on site to contribute her perspective on gender equality in Sweden.

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But stepping into the large halls, I immediately found that some things do change, for the better. For one thing, the displays had over the years, grown much more attractive. They had actually more space between each exhibition stall and the first thing that greeted me was not a boisterous crowd but rather, a fairly open laid out café – the Science Café – situated right next to an on-going researcher seminar at the Research Square, that drew but a small crowd.

It helped too that this year, I knew exactly which sections of the exhibition I wanted to explore, which meant that instead of heading off straight into any attractive looking stall, I instead calmly settled at the new-this-year Science Café with a chocolate vanilla crème filled muffin and a cup of hot coffee, plunking down on a swivel chair to study the small streets and the movements of the crowd, just so to better navigate the area in the next hour. Here, you can also sit, listen to and contemplate current research topics.

As I bit down into my chocolate muffin, in the background, I catch sounds of talk about the horrors of too much carbohydrate in our diet these days coupled with an increasingly sedentary lifestyle in front of the computer. I could go ahead and ask questions directly to researchers on site, but my mind was on the small lanes to navigate, the crowds to sidestep, and my black coffee laden with full fat cream to finish.

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At the comics section.

The atmosphere even at evening’s end, was electrically charged with crowds gathering most around booths of current affairs and talking points. Apart from these pools of individuals, I thought the section of most interest was one that encompassed comic books with artists and authors sitting at various booths for autographs. Martin Kellerman, author and artist of Rocky was on site to chat some.

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With author / creator of Rocky, Martin Kellerman.

Former Colonel to the Swedish military and now moderator at Gotheborg.com is Tommy Eklöf, who celebrated the launch of his new book that illustrates how one could date authentic pieces of antique Chinese porcelain from the facial features and adornments of the characters painted onto the porcelain.

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Moderator at Gotheborg.com, Tommy Eklöf, celebrates the publishing of his new book, “Dating Chinese Porcelain from Facial Features and Adornments – A Handbook”.

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American comic book writer and illustrator of Scrooge McDuck, Donald Duck and other Disney characters, Don Rosa, whose 12-chapter work on “The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck” won him the Eisner “Best Serialized Story” Award in 1995.

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Swedish cartoonist, Tony Cronstam. Together with Maria Cronstam, they created the comic strip Elvis in 2000 for publication in Metro Stockholm. The comic series won the prestigious Adamson Award in 2004.

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The book fair certainly proved a conducive meeting place for all who loved books and everything surrounding, being there not just to trade materially in goods but also in exchange of ideas.

The event runs through the weekend and what visitors can still look forward to are the myriad of international voices. The year’s theme is Romania and Romanian Literature with the country’s most distinguished writers being present at the fair, participating in some of the 16 seminars that engage the public on their writings.

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