Just a few days after Thanksgiving, U.S. publishers and librarians headed south for the 17th Feria Internacional del Libro (FIL) in Guadalajara, Mexico, which ran November 29 through December 7. The Guadalajara fair, the largest and most important book fair in the Spanish-language publishing industry, played host to 443,917 attendees, up 5.6% from last year.
This year's special guest was Quebec, inspiring considerably less political heat than was generated by the selection of Cuba last year. The fair had a slight increase in the number of countries represented, up from 35 to 38; the number of industry professionals who attended inched up from 14,267 to 14,416. Still, many attendees commented on lighter aisle and booth traffic than in previous years.
According to FIL's U.S. representative, David Unger, "The general sense of a slight drop-off in number of professionals was balanced by excellent sales for the Mexican publishers this year." Some 208,000 international Spanish-language titles were on display this year, 30,000 more than last year. Unger was disappointed in the number of literary agents who attended this year's show—46 to last year's 60. He hopes to reverse that trend next year by allowing literary scouts and translators free access to the show.
Though the number of U.S. librarians making the trip decreased this year from 187 to 175, due to several last-minute cancellations driven by cuts in travel budgets, U.S. and Canadian children's publishers such as Rosen Publishing and Groundwood Books did brisk business with those who did attend. According to Mauricio Velásquez, editorial director for Rosen's Spanish division Buenas Letras, this year's FIL was a busy event. "We had a lot of librarians visiting our booth. Just three years ago we only had 18 titles to show them; now we've built our Spanish and bilingual title list to 250 titles." Velásquez was impressed by the growing number of illustrated books by Latin American children's publishers as well as the growing worldwide interest in graphic novels, a trend Buenas Letras is interested in pursuing.
International publishing houses used the fair to announce expansion plans for next year. Spain's Océano, whose Mexico offices have become leaders in the U.S. Spanish-language market, announced that it will be opening its first warehouse in Brooklyn to further expand its sales to the U.S. Its upcoming release of the long-awaited Spanish-language Harry Potter audio series, just in time for the holidays, was the buzz of the fair. Random House Mondadori, which has gotten off to a somewhat shaky start with title availability after the merger, announced new plans for distribution of other international Spanish-language houses to the U.S. market.
A highlight of the fair came on the inaugural Saturday when the reclusive Gabriel García Márquez surprised the fair's organizers by showing up to award his longtime friend, Brazilian author Rubem Fonseca, the fair's prestigious 2003 Premio de Literatura Latinoamericana y del Caribe Juan Rulfo Award for his body of work. Colombian Nobel Prize—winner García Márquez, who most recently received worldwide attention for his memoir Living to Tell The Tale (Knopf), stayed for the press conference afterward, but left the city immediately after the award presentation. This year, the notable Premio Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz prize, given to Latin American and Spanish women writers, went to Mexican essayist and journalist Margo Glantz for her novel El Rastro (Anagrama). El Rastro will be available in the U.S. in translation from Curbstone Press next year.