A total of 291 exhibitors from 20 countries congregated at Moscow’s Central House of Artists Thursday to kick off the 13th Non/Fiction Fair. The five-day event is set to host 300 programs and well over 10,000 visitors and, while that is a significant number for an exhibition space of only 9,000-square-meters, the fair organizers say they have no intention of moving to a new venue.
“We are more interested in enriching our programs, having the best fiction and nonfiction publishers, and inviting more foreign speakers than aiming for more space and bigger halls,” said Vasiliy Bychkov, director of the fair and the Central House of Artists. “For instance, this year, we have a series of events on popular science that reflect the interests of the reading public. While the fair is expanding its programming dedicated to nonfiction, fiction remains its strongest area, with a wealth of events focused on local authors and publishers. “Cultural events are the best parts of our fair," Bychkov said.
Overseas exhibitors are certainly drawn by the ability to sell their titles to Russian readers. Prague Book fair director Dana Kalinova said that Russian publishers' enthusiasm for foreign titles has not quite caught up with the enthusiasm shown by Russian readers. “We are making slow and steady progress in putting out more Czech titles in Russian," she noted. "We also have a translators’ guild back in our country that recommends outstanding Russian titles for translation. Given time, this two-way translation flow will definitely pick up.” The bigger Czech stand—twice the size of last year’s—is proof of Kalinova’s optimism.
Over at FILI (Finnish Literature Exchange), project manager Tiina Lehtoranta is seeing increased interest in Finnish children’s books and YA titles. “We were the Guest of Honor in 2008 and, since then, publishers such as Meshcheryakov, Samokat and Azbooka have began translating our titles.” This year, FILI’s focus is on nonfiction with four authors speaking at the fair: Timo Vihavainen and Anna-Lena Lauren on their books about Russia and Finland, and Liisa Karlsson and Tittamari Marttinen on early childhood education and development.
For Sweden, its presence at the fair dates back more than a decade, and lots of Swedish authors have been translated into Russian. Natasha Banke, a Russian literary who married a Swede, has been instrumental in driving rights sales, said Ekaterina Kohlova of the Swedish Embassy in Moscow. “There are also many Russian students who learn and speak Swedish," she said. Authors such as Steve Sem-Sandberg (The Emperor of Lies), Annika Thor, Stefan Casta and Bengt Yangfeldt are at the fair for various programs.
On the domestic front, publishers such as Azbooka-Atticus, Ripol Classic, Meshcheryakov, GLAS and NLO are represented at the fair, with packed booths and new titles to promote.
Meanwhile, the state of copyrights and digital rights was spotlighted in a roundtable discussion held by the Russian Book Union (RBU), Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communications (FAPMC) and Eksmo Publishing House. Rights director Lynette Owen of Pearson Education UK and independent consultant Ruediger Wischenbart were invited to add broader perspectives to the topic. Deputy director Vladimir Grigoriev of FAPMC and Eksmo CEO (and v-p of RBU) Oleg Novikov are among the nine local speakers.
An alliance of independent Russian publishers and booksellers was also launched on the first day of the fair. About 20 publishers and booksellers have joined the group, including Falanster, Ad Marginem, OGI, Text and Piotrovsky. In a publishing market dominated by big players offering the whole book supply chain from publishing to retail and distribution, this move marks a major departure from the norm. Needless to say, the Non/Fiction fair organizer was quick to grasp the significance of this alliance, and has allocated a special area—usually dedicated to guest countries—to highlight works from various small and independent publishers.