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CULTURE | 27-04-2024 14:10

Milei, indigenous authors and virtual reality at Buenos Aires Book Fair

Forty-eighth edition of the Feria Internacional del Libro de Buenos Aires opens at La Rural exhibition centre. Event runs from April 25 to May 13.

The 48th edition of the Buenos Aires International Book Fair kicked off on Thursday against a backdrop of a severe economic crisis and with a number of highlights to come in the next four weeks.

Among the items that stand out on the agenda are a gathering with indigenous communities, the launch of President Javier Milei's latest book and the chance to enjoy literary immersion in virtual reality.

The event's inaugural speeches on Thursday and Friday didn't hold back in outlining the challenges facing the literary community, the arts, the publishing industry and the wider population.

“Does it make sense to hold this new edition of the Book Fair in a country where poverty and destitution grows day by day?” wondered writer Liliana Heker in her opening speech.

“I believe books acquire a very special significance in present day ... I find it relevant to treat them as a fair representation of everything that is attacked today [by the government]. To redeem them then is an urgent matter,” the 81-year-old said.

The annual book fair, which runs until May 13, is one of the most important literary events in the Spanish-speaking world. Normally it is a cause for celebration, but Argentina is going through a tough economic crisis, with 288-percent annual inflation and over half the population considered poor.

Milei, whose austerity policies and budget-slashing plans have been criticised by cultural institutions and leading lights, will present his latest book at the fair on May 12. Capitalismo, socialismo y la trampa neoclásica ("Capitalism, socialism and the neoclassic trap”) is, according to the head of state, his 18th work.

Alejandro Vaccaro, the president of the Fundación El Libro, the event's organisers, harshly criticised Milei on the opening day of the Book Fair, denouncing “a ruthless attack on culture.”

Vaccaro pointed out that the book fair has arrived this year amid a "highly complex setting, given the attacks and economic measures causing an abrupt loss of purchasing power for 90 percent of the population."

He described the event “as a cultural beacon amid the darkness” and defended it as “a democratic and plural pillar with room for all voices and thoughts."

"This chapter of the fair represents resistance, since we’re hosting the 48th International Buenos Aires Book Fair within a highly complex framework." declared Vaccaro, denouncing “a ruthless attack on all cultural expressions, without any economic justification but backed by a huge economic bias” and said that “cultural creators are on alert."

Vaccaro criticised the President's intention to promote his latest book at the event, highlighting that the government had refrained from buying its normal exhibition stand at the event, citing a lack of cash.

“The President, after looking down on our fair doesn’t blush and asks to take part in it,” said Vaccaro. "There’s no memory of our fair without the Government’s stand at this event. The excuse [claimed by Presidential Spokesperson Manuel Adorini] that for the State to take part meant a disbursement of 300 million pesos is nothing but an outright lie."

Milei is due to appear at the exhibition centre's central court on Sunday, May 12. 

The Fair has around 1,500 sellers from over 40 countries and includes over 1,500 cultural offerings between conferences, presentations, courses and other activities.

On May 8 and 10 there will be gathering of writers from indigenous and aboriginal peoples from different countries across the Americas, mainly Argentina, Chile, Peru, Paraguay and Canada.

“It’s a huge debt Argentine literature has ... and it means making communities that remain the shadows visible, behind the tale of a white country that Argentina is not,” wrote journalist Fabián Martínez Siccardi in the newspaper from the event. 

Looking ahead, at the Zona Futuro ("Future Zone") section, there will be virtual reality experiences for the public involving fragments of the classic short story Casa tomada ("House taken over”) by Julio Cortázar, as well as the novel La invención de Morel ("The invention of Morel") by Adolfo Bioy Casares.

I have plenty of expectations but every time I come to the fair, they are exceeded, not only by the number but the quality of sellers,” said María Laura Simone Codevilla, a 60-year-old teacher who was stocking up on books.

The Feria Internacional del Libro de Buenos Aires runs from April 25 to May 13 in premises covering 45,000 square metres at the La Rural exhibition centre in Palermo.


– TIMES/AFP

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