This article was developed within the program Venture an Idea funded by the USAID.
After a 2-year hiatus caused by Covid, the Belgrade Book Fair is finally back on track. One of the most significant Fall season European literary events this side of Frankfurt, Madrid, or Vienna, Belgrade BF hit the ground running last Sunday with Romania as the 2022 guest of honor.
This year's edition gathers more than 900 exhibitors from all over the globe under the slogan roughly translated as 'Return of the Written Word''. It references what we've all been through these last couple of years and an (untranslatable) pun on an uber-popular Serbian TV show from the late 70s.
We're sharing the sights and sounds of the 65th International Belgrade Book Fair, having lined the queue shortly after the Sunday opening.
Entering the Fair
Did we say scents, too? Because the first thing that hits you upon entering the dome-shaped amphitheater of Belgrade Fair's building main hall is the smell of freshly printed books. There's every genre imaginable in every format known to printers presented at the fair. Fiction books, non-fiction, fantasy books, romances, thrillers, utopian, dystopian, normal, paranormal, abnormal; health books, history books, encyclopedias, and children's lit.
Returning to the main hall, from the vantage point up above, you can see and hear hosts of people milling about in search of that one more book to buy before you plunge into the crowd and join the hunt. To be fair (pun not intended), most of them do come in the Serbian language. Still, there are a couple of well-furnished exhibitors with books in English, of which we heartily recommend The English Book and The Bookshop, located in Hall 4.
Climbing up the Stairs
Did we say hunt? More like exploration because the actual (treasure) hunt is somewhere a little hidden from plain sight and sound. Namely. for the more adventurous among you and who don't mind a little fishing, there is a whole section of used books on offer. The smell here is different, old leather mixed in with quest-like zing, and here you can find books in English, French, German, Russian, and other world languages printed 30, 40, or even 50 years ago.
You either come back empty-handed, tired, and weather-beaten from this section or all smiles with a rare, precious, extraordinary publication up your sleeve. There are regular books here too, but they're half the fun, really.
Meeting the People
The fun, you say? There's plenty of it at the International Belgrade Book Fair if you consider the number of public talks, lectures, workshops, and discussion panels.
But the best of all are the people behind the stands. Always friendly and eager to help, you can ask them anything about the publications on offer and expect a cultured, educated, and attentive answer. This is particularly true for the smaller, quote-unquote exhibitors, where people who actually work for or own a publishing house are often behind the stand. Because at the end of the day (very successful, might we add, with a backpack full of books), this year's fair is as much about people reconnecting as it is about the written word and its return in the flesh.
This article is made possible by the support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this program are the responsibility of Nova Iskra and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.